Preview: Phoenix Suns (23-24) at Indiana Pacers (27-18)

Phoenix Suns 113, Indiana Pacers 111

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The Phoenix Suns used a valiant effort to fight their way back into the playoff race last homestand. Now they must make sure they don’t give back too much of that ground on this road trip.

Toward that goal the Suns visit the Indiana Pacers tonight in a crucial game after collapsing late in Miami on Tuesday and getting obliterated defensively the next night in Orlando.

But these aren’t your big brother’s Pacers, as this matchup will be Phoenix’s third in four games against one of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference.

After sneaking into the playoffs eight games below .500 last season, the Pacers have established themselves as one of the better teams in basketball, particularly at home where they are 14-6.

Indiana’s greatest virtue is its depth, as eight players average over 9.5 points per game yet only leading scorer Danny Granger is over 13 ppg.

The Pacers have utilized the same starting lineup in all but two games this season (when Granger missed a pair of games due to a sprained ankle and food poisoning), and they added to their bench at the trade deadline when they acquired former Sun Leandro Barbosa to join a reserve corps that also includes a familiar face in Lou Amundson.

As always seems to be the case in this wacky NBA season one way or another, the scheduling gods may have given the Suns a favor in this one. The Pacers roared back from a 22-point deficit last night to take down the Wizards in Washington and then had to fly all the way back to Indiana for this one.

The Suns should also be smarting after having been blown out for the first time since starting their 11-3 run Wednesday night in Orlando.

Their defense looked a step slow against the Magic after that draining game in Miami, but the Suns have no such excuse as the rested squad in this one.

It seems to be an annual tradition for the Suns to get swept on the Miami-Orlando back-to-back, but I’m interested to see how they respond in this one. Will they get right back on a roll by beating a solid Pacers squad or did they just take advantage of one of the longer home stretches any team will see?

I am also interested to see how Marcin Gortat responds to arguably his worst game since emerging with Phoenix. Gortat managed just four points on 1-for-7 shooting against his old nemesis Dwight Howard last time out. It almost seemed like he was trying too hard to the extent that he fumbled away many Steve Nash passes. The Suns need Gortat to put that performance behind him and resume his stellar season.

If tonight’s game is anything like Phoenix’s last two visits to the Fieldhouse, we are all in for quite a treat.

Last season Channing Frye tore out the Pacers’ hearts by drilling a game-winning jumper at the overtime buzzer, and the season before Phoenix blew a 24-point lead during a stretch in which they made blowing double-digit leads seem easy.

With a winnable game in Cleveland looming Sunday afternoon, the Suns can still come home with the split that would represent a successful road trip.

It won’t be easy, but it is what the Suns need to do to stay in the playoff race with Houston now back to 2 1/2 games ahead of Phoenix for the final playoff spot in the West.

  • A-ROCK

    Click on the link………………………

    I hope this doesn’t happen to Gortat again!

    Gortat getting owned by Dwight!!

  • Tim Bayliss

    Go Suns go! I really hope the team rebounds after that forgettable game in Orlando. The Pacers have a good hardworking team as shown by their comeback last night against the Wizards. I wish Barbosa and Lou were still with the Suns (along with Dragic, one of my favourite players who should still be a Sun!)

  • Tony

    The Suns have to win this game tonight or their playoff hopes are probably finished. Although Indiana has a very good team, they’ve been struggling recently and so the Suns are going to need to jump on them early, so that their confidence gets shaken and they start to press.

    Any news on Diaw becoming a Sun? I still think he would be a nice addition and help this team get to the playoffs.

  • Scott

    Well, there you go. Gentry put out a lineup of Lopez, Gortat, and Frye.

    And none of them got the rebound. lol

  • Scott

    @Tony -

    The scoop on Diaw right along is that he’d get picked up by the Spurs. I believe that is official now.

  • A-ROCK

    I knew someone would make that comment about the trinity 3 headed center monster haha

  • Scott

    @Tim -

    Yeah, I really liked Barbosa and Amundson. The Suns could have used both in recent years.

  • B. Cray Z.

    Have I not been talking about getting out lost bench players back?

    Suns could have gotten LB back for a mere 2nd round draft pick! That is all (most likely an inferior overall selection) the Pacers needed to give. That would have given us our former “go-to scorer” that would have helped us close out The Heat.

    Louis is a solid (yet dirt cheap) contributor to The Pacers’ 2nd unit. What is the deal with those in management that Tony likes to call (The Three Stooges)? Getting them back would have had a huge impact on our success this year.

    MUST reunite that killer bench unit. Let’s go SUNS!!!!