Indiana Pacers 112, Phoenix Suns 104 – A punch to the gut

PHOENIX – Lindsey Hunter likes the Indiana Pacers. They’re the well-rounded offensive attack anchored by the NBA’s best defense that the Suns interim coach, as you might expect knowing his playing history, would like his team to eventually emulate should he see Phoenix’s rebuilding process through.

“I love chippiness. I love playing with an edge,” Hunter said. “I love being on the floor thinking a fight may break out any minute. It’s kind of fun.

He paused, and to clear it up: “Not a brawl, but a pushing match.”

The Suns fell 112-104 to the Pacers on Saturday in front of a relatively lively home crowd, and the loss to one of the Miami Heat’s biggest enemies – chippy play included – was a relieving sight for Phoenix during these dark days. Goran Dragic returned from a two-game hiatus with what Hunter called “rockets on his shoes.”

“Rocky is back in the building,” Hunter said before the game.

And the coach sold why the team was resting him quite well, adding that the perception about the connection to the Suns’ lottery balls didn’t bother him.

“Bruise under his eye is healed a little bit,” Hunter said. “Hopefully his rib cage is a little (better) … like I said, the kid looks like he’s boxing. If you can look at him after the game, it’s like, ‘There’s no way this kid is getting up tomorrow to practice.’ But you love that about him.

“He’ll kill himself if you let him.”

Dragic scored 21 points and added nine assists for Phoenix, but the Suns didn’t have their point guard around to deliver the knockout punch because he fouled out in the finals minutes. He and Pacers star Paul George went back-and-forth throughout the game, but George ended up finishing the game and scoring 25 points.

Putting up a quick 15 points in the first 5:10 of the first quarter, the Suns finished the period by scoring just six more points as the Pacers built a 27-21 lead. Phoenix clung to a single-digit deficit for most of the night and in the game managed to shoot 49 percent against the NBA’s best defensive team.

“Guys passed up good shots and we got great shots,” Hunter said. “The game dictates what you should do. A lot of times we don’t listen ’cause we want to make a play instead of taking a play. Tonight we took the plays the game presented. We moved the ball to the open guy. It was a great thing to watch.”

This came all despite the Pacers pulling down 19 offensive boards – they only scored 13 second-chance points off all those opportunities and Phoenix oddly had 18.

And those two statistics together allude to Hunter saying he is working with the Suns in finishing plays. Though there were missed rebounds, Phoenix hung tight to continue defending and because of it was within a single possession until the final two minutes.

With Phoenix trailing 57-49, Dragic came out of the halftime break dishing. He recorded four assists in the first 2:30 of the third quarter as Phoenix climbed within two points. The Suns point guard finished with nine assists to end his double-double streak at five games.

Markieff Morris’ success in the second half was evidence more of the Pacers’ lapses in focus on Saturday. Finishing with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting, he blew by David West twice in the second half then started knocking down step-back jumpers as his confidence grew.

“He was guarding well, especially West,” Dragic said. “He was huge especially in the third and fourth quarter. We were iso-ing him and he knocked down some huge shots for us, and he was driving.”

But as close as Phoenix had kept the game, a George splash from three-point range with less than four minutes to play in the third bumped the Pacers lead back to nine.

Dragic drilled a three-pointer on the tail end of a 9-2 Phoenix run to start the fourth, but George answered with timely buckets once again, scoring five straight points. And with the Suns down 10, they punched back quickly behind Dragic, making Hunter’s boxing analogy quite accurate.

Phoenix trailed 102-101 with 2:46 to play but the Pacers continued to attack – they took 46 free throws to the Suns’ 19 – and the Suns couldn’t get the stop needed to pull the upset.

So were there any moral victories? Some would say yes – Hunter called them “small victories” – but the fact remains that Phoenix is eyeing that top draft pick.

“I’d say (there is) more frustration where we can play so well offensively against this team that’s the best defensive team,” Jared Dudley said. “It’s got to be more consistent. ‘Til we fix it, we’ll be at the bottom.”

Did the free throw discrepancy doom Phoenix?

The Suns lots the free throw battle tremendously, but whether it was an issue depends on who you ask. Hunter didn’t want to speak much about the refereeing.

“I guess we have to tell our guys to drive to the basket a little harder,” he said.

After more prodding, he added, “I guess we have to be a little more aggressive.”

Dudley said that it was simply how much the Pacers dump it down to West and Hibbert. That’s not to mention George, whose slashing earned him 12 free throws.

And Dragic said it was all about aggressiveness.

“They got a lot of calls because they play tough,” the Slovenian said. “Sometimes if you’re not playing tough and then you try to switch in the third or the fourth quarter, the referees, they aren’t going to call it.”

And 1

Hunter added that Dragic and perhaps even Luis Scola will see more nights off throughout the rest of the remaining schedule to reduce their mileage with the future on the mind.

  • Azbballfan

    Good game from the Suns

    they almost looked like they cared out there

    i wish marcus morris would get more playing time

    his brother keiff had a great game offensively, 8-12 from the floor is what we want

    only 4 rebounds but hey team leader beasley had only 6

    rebounding is something else the suns need to address this upcoming draft

    i hope Portland keeps on losing and loses their top 12 protected pick, they would owe that pick to the Bobcats

    yet another team we can make a deal with to get a quality pick for one of our players

    how about

    Marcin Gortat to the Bobcats for the 13th pick and ramon sessions works in the espn trade machine

    Gortat to Minny for J.J. Berea and Greg Steimsma and their lotto pick would also work

    The Morris twins to Bobcats for Biyombo would also work

    poor rebounding kills us every game and should be priority number 2 in the draft after we get a good shooting guard

  • hawki

    Suns and Cavs are in a virtual tie for 3rd in Draft Lottery.
    Suns .311…..Cavs .310 (Suns have played 3 more games).
    Cavs still have Orlando & Charlotte on their schedule & Kyrie Irving is due to come back, so we can hope.

    Suns will probably not be favored in any remaining game, although they usually surprise when you least expect it.

    ps. Today marks the 6 month anniversary of me being banned from commenting on (not easy to do)

    I don’t know if it was George Bernard Shaw or Oscar Wilde who said “If you’re going to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.

    Truer words were never spoken…..just ask Bradley Manning.

  • Azbballfan

    I dont know who bradley manning is

    But yeah the Suns decided to pull out a miracle victory over Cleveland back in November and have 1 of their 7 raod wins against them too

    so Cleveland holds the tie breaker

    Orlando and Charlotte are playing better but probably not enough for the Suns to catch up with them

    i think we own the tie breaker over Charlotte too

    We lost to Orlando both games i think

    Btw, Oladipo and the Hoosiers may be gone from the toruney but Oladipo had a very good game if thats it for him and he doenst come back

    16 points on 6 shots from the field, a few steals rebounds and assists

    Jeff Withey had a good game too

    Mclemore finally had a decent game

    i cant wait for the draft!

  • GS test

    Indiana Pacers 112, Phoenix Suns 104 – A punch to the gut

  • bill.thomas

    @Azbballfan: I like your trade idea with the Bobcats; Sessions an underrated player
    and can be put on the floor with Dragic; don’t follow your point on the Portland pick, tho.

    Don’t agree at all with giving up both Morris’ for Biyombo, tho. The man has no offensive game at all.

  • cam

    Strong work by the Suns. They played hard. That’s all you can ask for. Gotta keep rooting for Utah and Dallas. They need to keep winning. I really just want to see the Fakers miss the playoffs, especially after building that team. I want to see them fall apart. Kobe, with his guarantees and smug attitude, I just want to see him fail. Go Suns.

  • Scott

    It cracked me up when some of the Suns announcers (was it Tom & Tom?) talked about how the Pacers were the model for what the Suns want to be, how the Suns wanted to rebuild.

    Why did I laugh? Because Indiana was quickly rebuilt by Pritchard, who was available after Kerr left, and I had called for Pritchard to be hired, but the owners picked Blanks instead. They didn’t even have Pritchard on the radar.

    IMO, the best GM club right now includes Buford / Popovich, Presti, Pritchard, and Morey. These guys tend to get it done, and done on a budget.

    Other guys, like Kupchak and Ujiri, might be good, or they might just be fortunate / unfortunate.

  • hawki

    @ AZbballfan
    “I don’t know who bradley manning is ”

    of course not, and that’s the way our Corporate controlled Govt. & main stream media like it.

    btw….I’m in a money bracket pool that has basically come down to today’s game between Florida & Michigan.
    I have Florida.
    Just picked up a 12 pack of Dos Equis to get me through.

  • DBreezy


    Sometimes you gotta laugh to keep from crying! Btw, you weren’t the only one who said that they could see the Suns resigning Wes to an affordable deal this offseason, I mentioned it a few times and pretty much expect it unless some contender bowls him over.

  • hawki

    Florida loses by 20….shoulda bought a case of beer.

    I think that Otto Porter is the leading candidate to be the Suns 1st round pick this year….assuming Nerlens Noel is off the board.

    Wes Johnson has earned the right to be kept at least one more year but what to do with Beasley ?
    If Beasley stops shooting outside jumpers he is actually quite effective but Blanks has not put the clamps on Beasley’s totally inadequate perimeter game.

    In the end…out with Beasley….in with Otto Porter.

  • foreveris2long

    Missed the game last night but glad to see the effort. Yeah I agree with yall regarding how we got Blanks post Kerr when a guy like Pritchard was available. Then again if the rumor is true Sarver wanted to cut Kerr’s salary, it seems Sarver was budgeting for an intern, i.e., Blanks.

    The Lakers potential lottery pick looks fairly promising with their injuries and schedule. At least there is reasonable hope.

    Hawk did you check out Payne in the tournament? I like his defensive intensity and moments of offense.

  • Luka


    Good observation dawg.

    Let’s pour a little more fuel on the fire…

    The Suns had the chance to draft Roy Hibbert in 2008, but opted to go for Robin Lopez.

    The Suns want to be like the Pacers? What the hell does that even mean? Where does Lindsey Hunter even get off talking like this? The Suns have no identity. Blanks put no one on the roster who can defend the paint or the three point line. Our front court is a joke compared to Indy’s. Just because Indiana takes us lightly in a meaningless late season game means nothing. I really hope Lance Blanks is fired, and Hunter goes along with him. Get a real coach, and a GM who knows what the hell he’s doing.

  • foreveris2long

    Dieng with Louisville at 6’10″, excellent hops, defensive anticipation around the rim and a decent 15 footer is pretty impressive. I admit I had only seen him play twice previously and do not recall seeing him shoot the 15 footer. Both him and Payne are projected in the 2nd round. If the Suns could get either one of these guys, it would really upgrade them defensively around the basket as both guys could play power forward.

  • foreveris2long

    Scott’s guy, Michael Carter-Williams with Syracuse is really impressing others. At 6’6 with his skills he might be the Suns guy in the lottery. Oladipo seems to be going down on most draft boards.

  • Scott

    @forever -

    I can’t believe Sarver would be so dumb as to seek to underpay on a GM, especially when he’s thinking of going into rebuilding mode. That would be truly epic.

    Consider that when Kerr was GM, Sarver (and the rest of the ownership group) gladly paid many extra millions to buy out Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic. So they’ve been willing to dish out the cash.

    Also, if the Suns turn into a horrible team for many years because of having a bad GM, that would seriously eat into operating profits.

    Last but not least, the Suns decided to hire both Babby and Blanks instead of going with one GM. Those two salaries probably add up to what you’d pay for a quality GM; heck, it could be more, but I don’t know what those guys are making.

    So no … I can’t see there being a desire to pinch maybe $2 million – max – off of the GM salary when so much rides on having a quality GM, and when the owners have been willing to pay millions in the recent past. I think they just got bad advice from someone about who to pick for GM, but I won’t risk the wrath of Toby by naming any names. ;)

    Clearly though … the Suns should have hired Pritchard instead of Babby and Blanks.

    @Luka -

    I was fine with Hibbert (PER of 16.74), as far as centers go. I’d seen him play in college and he seemed all right. And even when critics were grousing about him in the NBA, I was thinking, “He’s not that bad, and he’ll get better. If there’s an opportunity to snag him while he’s cheap, the Suns should do it.”

    However, Robin Lopez isn’t so bad either. I remain fairly convinced that Gentry was not as good of a coach as so many think, and one of the things he got wrong was the development of Robin Lopez. RoLo has a PER of 19.10, which leads anyone currently on the Suns by a good margin, including Dragic (17.33), O’Neal (17.23), and Scola (16.45).

    I had a suspicion that Lopez would blossom after being released by the Suns, and it has turned out to be true.

  • Scott

    @forever -

    Draft Express has had Dieng in the lower part of the first round for months now. I could see him moving slightly higher.

  • foreveris2long

    Scott if we get the Lakers pick lottery pick or we trade Gortat for a pick in the top 20, I would love to add this guy to the Suns mix. He is an animal on defense and can keep a defender honest with a decent 15 footer. Could you imagine him, Dragic, Carter on the floor together from a defensive standpoint?

    Luka and Scott on Hibbert, I remember seeing him battle Oden in college and thought this guy will be a decent center in the NBA and thought the Suns should consider him. I admit at the end I wanted them to draft Lopez because I had seen him play live against UCLA and in Pac 10 tournament and thought his athleticism would help the Suns more than Hibbert ( thought his feet were too slow) would. Lopez was really active before the herniated disc surfaced.

    I wonder if Hornets will pick up the option on Lopez this summer at $5m for next season. If they do not and we trade Gortat I hope we explore him as an option.

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    You guys are still on Lopez? Man you got to let that go.

    Gentry, (and the entire coaching staff / franchise), did everything they could with the guy. Even got him outside help. Here are the basic problems with him on the team with Gentry in charge.

    - How hard is that to learn really? Anybody? How many seasons does that really take? Lopez STILL CAN’T do it but at least it isn’t key to the basic fundamentals of the Hornets’ offense.
    He was given years to produce with plenty of floor time and opportunity. He never did; when a guy can come in off the street, (Gortat), and eradicate him in every single offensive / defensive category, 1+1=2

    Now the guy has a hand-full of decent games and suddenly it was a bad move to get rid of him? The dude is still terrible and I would never want him back in a Suns uniform. It’s comical that you guys can’t see it.

    HIs PER means nothing – a product of those around him in NOH, (he is basically an afterthought for opposing defenses there and they’ve got a young monster playing beside him defensively). Swap him for Gortat at the beginning of this year and NOH is far more deadly, while PHX definitely is looking at the #1 pick in the draft. Enough text and effort on that guy for me.

    Also, all of these guys who are now coming into the spotlight when it comes to draft stock, where have they been? These aren’t the days of needing to be on national television to get noticed. Lillard was on display well before march madness before he came out playing at his college.

    Oladipo is a beast, and has been for a long time. You know exactly what you’re going to get and you know he’s going to keep getting better, (minus any injury problems), because he works that hard.

    I don’t want any flavors of the month, thanks. Adam Morrisons are not my thing.

    Otto Porter is going to get ravaged at the next level. He plays so far below the rim and all of those cute sideways actions of his will get stomped out at the NBA level. I hope PHX stays far away from him.

  • Jake Tsakalidis

    Sorry, I’m not coming back to basketball. Tell Sarver to leave alone.

  • foreveris2long

    Rich, you would have more credibility in your opinions if you did not reference Gortat eradicating Lopez the season after he had a herniated disc and Gentry admitted Lopez lost 8 inches of his vertical. As for the so-called hand full of good games he had this season, his season totals are comparable to what Gortat produced, so there is no merit to that argument. Are you suggesting Gortat was terrible this season? Then when you consider he is only 24 and cheaper in salary while Gortat is in his prime, renders your argument suspect to say the least. Give us some substance to support your contention Lopez was terrible this season.

    While I like Oladipo, I would hardly characterize the guy as a beast. There are a few guys who are similarly good defenders with more offense. I definitely agree the Suns should consider him just don’t marry the guy until they have spent considerable time examining J. Franklin and Carter-Williams.

    While I like Otto Porter and think the Suns should look at him, I tend to agree the Suns need someone more athletic.

  • Scott

    There’s also no validity to the argument that Carter-Williams is a flavor of the month.

    I’d mentioned Carter-Williams as a possibility for the Suns months before Kendall Marshall was drafted; probably around January of last year. What I’d said was if the Suns didn’t draft Marshall, not to worry, because there would be another quality PG available in the draft the following year, and Carter-Williams was one I had my eye on (I mentioned him by name several times).

    Actually, it’s Oladipo who is the flavor of the month, in that nobody heard of the guy before this year, and he’s never played as well as he has this year. Shouldn’t we be suspicious of a guy who only plays well one year, wondering if it’s a fluke? Maybe Oladipo is having a good year, as has happened with many players, and that’s all there is to it.

    Whereas Carter-Williams has played notably well in HS and even continued to play well in college after he changed to a more demanding position. 15 assists in a game is not bad for a guy who used to carry the scoring load for his team as a SG, and had not played PG before.

    Anyway, I’m not saying one player is better than the other. I’m just saying Oladipo is more of a flavor of the month than Carter-Williams is.

  • Scott

    BTW … just saw Kevin Ware’s horrible injury. That is definitely the worst injury I’ve ever seen in basketball, much worse than Bogut’s backward flopping dislocated arm.–louisville-guard-kevin-ware-suffers-gruesome-compound-fracture-during-regional-final-game-215313448.html

  • bill.thomas

    @Scott: You gotta be kiddin me. You saw Carter Williams and Sarver didn’t see him. Wow, Sarver is losing his big Sarver edge. Wow, once you lose that big basketball edge…..

  • Robert Sarver

    Guys, we’re still a playoff team. Let’s give Lindsey Hunter a chance.

  • john

    I’d still put Livingston’s knee exploding ahead of Ware, but that’s not to lessen the gruesome sight that Ware injury was. I’ve seen a guy do something similar to his forearm right in front of my eyes, and I had just about the same reaction as Rick Pitino. Made me want to puke.

  • Scott

    DX has a small list of underclassmen who have made public statements affirming that they are declaring and staying in the draft.

    Anthony Bennett
    Archie Goodwin
    Tony Mitchell
    Lorenzo Brown
    BJ Young
    CJ Leslie
    Marshawn Powell
    Amath M’Baye
    CJ Aiken

    That’s it so far.

  • bill.thomas

    @Scott: Sarver papers over all these problems with a
    bottomless pit of pastrami and rye sandwiches available on order.

  • bill.thomas

    @Scott: Amongst Porter, Oladipo, Carter-Williams and other luminaries, we will obviously draft the one with the greatest affinity for pastrami and rye sandwiches.

  • bill.thomas

    For all those of you who would like to see me off this board, if the Suns will simply draft Plumlee with any pick whatever, I will immediately commit suicide.

  • hawki

    @ Forever
    Sorry it took so long….yes, Payne looks like a real prospect at the bottom of the 1st round.
    There was a real good article on him at (I can read their articles & play games but can’t comment…lol)
    Payne is a very intellectual guy & can really shoot for his size.

    Could be a moot point though…lakers have fallen a half game behind Jazz in 8th playoff spot battle.

    re: Michael Carter-Williams…..guy has great size & athleticism but with Dragic & Marshall already at the point I don’t think the Suns “brain” trust will seriously consider him.

  • john


    Correction, “With Dragic & Completely Useless Player #7 already at the point I think the Suns ‘brain’ trust would be wise to seriously consider him.”

  • Forever is2long

    Hawk, My man, good to hear from you. Regarding Carter-Williams, while there could be consternation in drafting a college player who plays the point, at 6’6′ , some scoring ability and who can defend, it seems he could easily play the 2 guard spot. Then again his upside in my opinion is so high and the Suns are not going anywhere in the foreseeable future, if he looks great in pre-draft camps, I would take him or J. Franklin. I am just not passing up someone with a big upside because we made a mistake and drafted a very average at best point guard last summer. However you are right the three blind mice if still together will have a problem thinking outside the box on that issue.

    As for Payne, I too just learned about his intellectual efforts which makes him an even better option. In my opinion if we get the Lakers lottery pick, we might go Dieng from Louisville (at least I hope), who has the same type of game but is a little taller and can play center. Either one of those guys along with Carter-Williams, Franklin or maybe Oladipo will at a minimum give the Suns major upgrades defensively and athletically.

  • limo

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