Preview: Phoenix Suns (11-18) at Indiana Pacers (16-12)

Indiana Pacers 97, Phoenix Suns 91

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PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns have been nothing if not streaky throughout the month of December.

First they lost seven in a row during a stretch that began in late November, then they came home and reeled off four consecutive victories, and now they have strung together three losses in a row before embarking on a three-game trip to end 2012 that opens tonight in snowy Indiana.

The location has hardly mattered when the Suns have hit the road this season as Phoenix has only won on the home floors of Charlotte and Cleveland, squads with a combined 14-44 mark thus far this season.  The Pacers, meanwhile, have won eight of 11 on their home court and they come in hot as winners of six of seven.

Making matters worse, the Pacers have not played since Saturday because Wednesday’s scheduled tilt against the Bulls was postponed because of a blizzard. The Suns have lost three games since Indiana last played, and they’ve had to travel a good portion of the way across the country to boot.

The Pacers are winning with defense, as they lead the entire NBA in defensive efficiency by yielding just 95.7 points per 100 possessions. However, with Danny Granger yet to play a minute they have been completely one-dimensional with the league’s 28th-ranked offense (97.7 rating). David West (17.4 ppg), Paul George (16.3) and George Hill (15.0) do the bulk of the scoring with Roy Hibbert regressing to 9.9 ppg and 8.2 rpg after going for 12.8 and 12.7 ppg the last two seasons.

The Suns get their offense from a much wider portion of their roster as their leading scorer, Goran Dragic, scores less than that trio of Pacers at 14.1 yet six Suns are in double figures compared to just those three with the Pacers. That’s a big reason why the Suns often don’t know where they will get their baskets at the end of games with so many quality scorers but no great ones.

“We are searching for that,” Dudley said of a go-to guy. “I don’t know if it will ever show up. We know our personnel, our personnel’s not changing now, so for us it’s whoever’s hot we’ve got to run plays through them.”

That worked for some time in the Knicks game with JD exploding for a career-high 36, but eventually the Suns will need to fill that go-to guy void if they want to return to the ranks of the perennial playoff teams.

As for tonight, their offense will be seriously challenged by the Pacers’ league-best defense, so the Suns may need somebody else to step up with a career night to even have a chance of pulling an upset to start the trip.

And 1

  • Dragic will miss tonight’s game and is questionable for tomorrow’s tilt in Minnesota, Paul Coro reported. Dragic missed practice Thursday and shootaround Friday as his left hip bruise is still ailing him although his elbow, tailbone and wrist all feel better, per Coro. Sebastian Telfair will start in his place, and Kendall Marshall is actually expected to get backup minutes, unlike Wednesday when the Suns played Telfair the entire second half sans Dragon.
  • Starting with their last two losses against the Clippers and the Knicks, this trip marks the beginning of the stiffening of the Suns’ schedule. In a Wages of Wins analysis done before the Knicks game, the Suns have faced the NBA’s easiest schedule thus far, and they are seven games under .500. What’s going to happen when they are matched up against quality teams every night with no Kings or Bobcats thrown in to give them a great chance at a win?

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