Phoenix Suns 124, Indiana Pacers 100 -- Statement made


PHOENIX – It didn’t matter so much for the Indiana Pacers that they fell 124-100 to the Phoenix Suns. The Wednesday win was bigger for the Suns, the league upstarts who not only wanted to send a message about their place in the NBA but need every win without Eric Bledsoe to remain in the playoff picture.

Frank Vogel’s team looked sleepy.

But this is the team that’s been so open about playing every game with the intensity of the NBA Finals. They’ve put a target on the Miami Heat – there’s little else to worry about out East – but want to see LeBron James’ mug rather than Gerald Green’s.

Maybe they should have realized it was, in fact, Gerald Green, and not LeBron and his affinity to, you know, pass. Green had airspace, and soon the scoreboard displayed a lot of space between the teams’ scores.

Green finished with 23 points against his former team as Jeff Hornacek went with a limited rotation until things became a little uncomfortable in the second half. Goran Dragic added 21 points and three dimes, and just as things had gone on Sunday against Denver, the bench unit earned the entire fourth quarter in minutes – Vogel emptied his bench with six minutes to play.

By allowing 62 first-half points on 55 percent shooting to the Suns, the Pacers went to the break with their worst defensive half of their season. The Suns hit 7-of-10 three-point attempts and would have made it a bigger advantage had they not missed seven free throws.

Leading by 13 at halftime, the Suns opened the third on a 10-2 run behind a probing Dragic who found the midrange jumper open.

The Pacers threatened by getting back to their grinding style late in the third quarter, but more masterful rotation decisions by Hornacek turned the game back in Phoenix’s favor.

Here’s how it went down in regards to my pregame questions.

Can Miles Plumlee make his former team work on both ends?

Plumlee scored five points and looked aggressive against Hibbert in the first quarter. He also did as much as you could ask in holding Hibbert down in the paint, one time even poking the ball away from Hibbert on a post-up attempt.

Hibbert recorded six points, three boards and two blocks in the first quarter. After that, he only added one rebounds — that’s it. Plumlee finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and one timely putback slam that showed just how much his speed affected Hibbert’s size.

Overall, the Suns seemed to care less about Hibbert’s shot-blocking. The big man scored six first-quarter points but battled foul trouble against the relentlessly attacking Suns, who weren’t finding much resistance once they got by their defenders.

In hindsight, the Suns presented more matchup problems than the Pacers posed to them. As they say, you can’t physically pummel what you can’t catch.

Will going small be possible for Phoenix against Indiana?

Phoenix didn’t play Ish Smith or Alex Len against the Pacers in the first half. Gerald Green played 20 first-half minutes at shooting guard, and about as small as Phoenix would get is playing Barbosa and Dragic with one another in the third quarter.

That’s when Indiana attacked time and time again, slowing the tempo by drawing fouls. Hornacek went with Ish Smith and Leandro Barbosa in the final two minutes heading into the fourth, hoping to pump the pace back to where the Suns had gotten it throughout the first half. Smith made quick work of Indiana, which allowed him an open 16-footer which he buried then got caught sleeping after a made bucket; Smith pushed back to score on an And 1 as the Suns went to the fourth quarter with a 96-79 lead.

Frye also saw extended minutes as the backup center. He and the Morris twins made Indiana uncomfortable, and it was the bench unit that created some buffer for the starters to get a solid amount of rest despite Hornacek only going eight players deep in the rotation until the Pacers changed the complexion of the game in the third quarter.

Markieff Morris hit two threes as Phoenix went small to start the fourth quarter, the final over Hibbert being the backbreaker. Morris finished with 20 points.

How does Dragic do on the big stage?

Dragic started fast, scoring seven points in the first quarter against George Hill, who came into the game with a thigh bruise that had Vogel mildly questioning his status before the game. And while Dragic burned Indy in the first half by pushing the ball on breaks, the Suns came out cautiously but focused in the second. In the halfcourt, Dragic hit a few mid-range jumpers that were likely to be available heading into the game.

Most impressively, Dragic and the Suns seemed unintimidated by Hibbert’s length inside. In the first half, Leandro Barbosa tested out Hibbert, who then sent a floater into the fifth row before he playfully talked smack with his former teammates. On the inbound play, Barbosa went right back at the Pacers big man, floating a shot in for Barbosa’s first hoop.

  • BUTLER

    SUNS SEND WARNING TO EASTERN CONFERENCE IN ADVANCE OF FINALS

  • EBJM

    When the shots are falling it is a thing of beauty. The Suns were unconscious from the three-point line. Ish Smith has to be the most impactful player in the league in the least amount of minutes.

    I would have loved to see what Len could have done against Hibbert.

  • Al

    This was BEAUTIFUL!!! Watched the whole thing. I admit I was nervous that Suns would get blown out by the best defensive team in the NBA and in national T.V. Boy was I wrong. Been nervous this past two weeks that Phoenix would start going on a long losing streak after losing Bledsoe; But they have battled all their games until the end. The coaching staff has done a phenomenal job. Defense has improved as well as the rebounding. I can see Hornacek having a long tenure with this team at 15+ years like Sloan.
    Ish Smith is a great third string PG that keeps the fast pace and is a good passer. I guess he is better for this team than Marshall.
    It feels like the Suns are just one or two pieces away from putting it all together. How great would it be to add Jeff Green or Kevin Love to this squad? or Both ;) by just trading various picks, cash, and end of bench players (Kravstov, Goodwin, Okafor) This team could go on and pull a Cinderella story like the ’04 Pistons a decade later…I’ll believe McD can perform basketball miracles…

    To the Pacers:
    SEE YOU IN THE FINALS!!!

  • JK

    Tonight’s game was a thing a beauty. Phoenix looked like a contender tonight. Just imagine if this production could be reached on a consistent basis!!! Hoping that this is a sign that the Suns are due for a deep postseason run.
    PROUD TO BE A SUNS FAN!!!

  • BCrayZ

    It’s late.

    Past midnight.

    So I’m feeling a bit lazy.

    Will then just repeat my last comment from the preview that summed it up very well:

    ” How about that!!!!

    Suns blow out the best team in the game.

    When all was said & done, Frye did not wow them with 30 points this time. But he was by far the most valuable player in (+/-) with a plus 29. Next came Barbosa with a +20, even though he also had a quiet night & they rarely played at the same time, Shan man probably thinks that this is just a coincidence. Gogi, who we all agree is very good, by comparison was “only” a plus 9, as his hot shooting from the field was somewhat offset by some careless turnovers & dumb fouls & missing 4 of his first 5 from the foul line. What common thread this trio has is not just that playoff run, but the fact that, while none of them are perfect, they all know how to play for wins. Suns have now won 3 of their last 4 & this is the 17th time in a row that scoring over 110 points has meant that we won the game. Sure, we all would like to see better D, better rebounding (West was held to just 5 boards & Roy to only 4) & more than 1/3 of our hoops coming off of a pass. Fact is there are many ways to win the game & who can complain with 17 out of 17 when over 110, particularly when our offense (even without Eric) is capable of destroying the Pacers vaunted D in this statement game. Suns won all 4 quarters in this game. When my son Jacob was younger, the competitive side of me would come out in a joke. I would say that we needed to win all 4 quarters & then we had a good chance of winning the game. Will be even better, if at all possible, by having Gogi, LB & Frye playing at the same time. Make it so Jeff.

    MUST start & ALSO finish with LB. Let’s go SUNS!!!!

  • SJose

    Beautiful win. Got to enjoy this one Suns fans. Dragic Dragon has heart. Tons of it!

  • VeE

    good ass whooping the suns gave them

  • Lance

    Gogi again allstar game. Right moves in right time. All team played great also.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    Goran has come a long way…it’s great to see the confidence he plays with now & has become very crafty at drawing fouls on drives to the bucket.

    Gerald was awesome & props to Plum & Kieff.

    Great win for Coach Hornacek & Suns Nation.

  • Voqar

    After a couple of lackluster games, and expecting a really tough game, this was a glorious game to watch. Suns passed, hustled, played with energy, and hit shots. It’s nice when it all comes together.

  • EBJM

    BCrayZ please stop already. The plus/minus stat is hugely influenced by other players on the court.
    The main usefulness of this stat is for coaches to identify winning lineups.

    Basketball is a fluid, all-on-all sport in which teammates affect one another unlike baseball, in which discrete stats matter most.

    Anyone watching the game would agree that without Dragic the Suns would not have blown the Pacers out. West was killing Frye in the 1st quarter before injuring his right hand.

    The Suns bench ranked fifth in scoring before entering the game last night according to Paul Coro. Frye played a lot of minutes at center with the 2nd unit. Markieff and Ish Smith were huge off the bench and Frye’s +/- benefited from that.

    Even Green played a lot with that group and please don’t try and say Frye was more impactful than Green was because Green “only” had a +13.

    I know everyone loves Barbosa and I’m not taking anything away from that but it was his poor play that led Hornacek to go 9 deep and put Ish Smith in the game who instantly produced a lot better than Barbosa.

    ESPN broadcaster and Hall of Fame coach Hubie Brown pointed out the Suns and Frye’s deficiencies very politely while showering them with accolades.

    1) they are missing a lost post back to the basket scorer.
    2) Everyone knows that Frye is going to step back and shoot jumpers and will NOT put the ball on the floor and drive to the rim.

    You pointed out Dragic’s T.O.s but he only had 3 while Frye was 2nd with two. Frye also had four fouls attempting to defend West down low despite having three inches on him. Despite having an injured right hand and playing less minutes than Frye he scored more points than Frye on 54% FG.

    Even though the Suns kept the battle of the boards close, it wasn’t with any help from Frye who only grabbed three, one more than Dragic and Barbosa and less than Tucker and Green.

    Miles “only” had a +/- of 7 but scored more points and grabbed more boards than Frye but most importantly his energy and constant movement helped put Hibbert on the bench with 6 fouls and contributed to Hibbert only shooting 37% FG.

    The most telling sign of just how weak of a PF Frye is when after watching Mile soar over Hibbert and friends for two monster put-backs Frye attempted to do the same and couldn’t finish.

    Coach Brown made a very interesting observation. He actually called out Okafor as a missing weapon of the Suns because he is a shot-blocker and rebounder. Apparently Brown hasn’t gotten the memo the Suns do not have any interest in bringing Okafor on board.

  • Elviro (Italy)

    I’m really happy! Now that’s a major victory!
    This game should give us a sense of the potential of these guys!
    Very great!

  • sunsn7

    Crushed em.. but im not getting too high or too low over one game. But the Suns made quite a statement without Bledsoe

  • http://None Porto Suns

    Great statement win! But the more importante is how the team seems to be adjusting increasingly well to Eric’s absence. Diversifying attacking options by attacking the rhym and stepping up on D.
    Go Suns!

  • vtsunrise

    Dayyum, that was a thing of beauty.

    Please, Suns, could we have some more?

  • Dave:f32

    Great win for this Suns team! Good solid effort all-around, esp. from Ish “Swish” Smith a.k.a. Mr. Mini Bledsoe

  • Dave:f32

    Statement games usually come in the playoffs, so I won’t be declaring any Suns championships anytime soon. Keep on rolling and Go Suns!

  • Drew

    @EBJM Preach on man! I totally agree with your points. Since I live NJ, I don’t get to see lots of games, so I recognize I’m working with a small sample size.

    The things that stood out to me was Plumlee’s value that isn’t captured on the box score, the poor decision making by Barbosa, and Frye’s deficiencies.

    I’ve noticed Plumlee posting quieter numbers lately, but watching the game shows how hard he works to deny the post on D, or move around quickly on offense to take Hibbert out of his game. Glad the box score doesn’t catch everything.

    I love LB, but his shot selection seemed erratic – the same things that used to frustrate me 8 years ago. He can certainly change the pace of the game.

    Frye’s +/- was the beneficiary of others having a good night. Individually he was struggling again staff West. His ability to stretch the floor, though, just might make up for his weaknesses on nights like these.

  • Foreveris2long

    I cannot believe what I witnessed last night. I awakened at 4 this morning and could not go back to sleep I was so excited about the beat down the Suns handed the best team in the league. Yeah Hawki, Dragic has full command of his skill set and his confidence is sky high and for good reason.

    I cannot say enough good things about Green now that he has explored his mid range game to keep defenders honest. Did you see how high his head and shoulders were on the dunk?

    Not only did last night tell ESPN you better find more Suns games but it put all potential free agents on notice if you want to play for tomorrows young and promising team with offensive explosion without compromising defense in a warm weather city, a team with a really good coach and great GM, who may have 4 first round picks this summer, PHOENIX will be the city of choice. They are calling their agents as we speak.

    I hope I get some work done today.

  • BCrayZ

    Who needs to work?

    This is a day for Suns fans to celebrate.

    Drew & EBJM have no clue. Jeff understands winning. Last night, he tried to experiment when Gogi picked up another dumb foul.

  • BCrayZ

    With Ish being Gogi’s back up & a true point guard, Jeff made the same mistake as Mike Dumb Antoni of trying to force Barbosa out of his natural position of shooting guard into a back up point guard role. Even with his mistakes running the point, he still gave the Suns a burst of energy that helped the team gain separation in last night’s game. That is why he was a plus 20, compared with Gogi at plus nine.

    As for Frye? If the “other players” Frye played with were the ones responsible for his game high plus 29, why is it that no “other player” even came remotely close to this? Faulty logic on your part. West is a handful & so is Hibbert. They never reached double digit rebounds, even totaling both of them. Suns had Gogi but did not have Frye last year, but were swept by the Pacers both here & on the road. This is no disgrace, as Indiana has a beast of a team. What about the year before last? Suns did not have Gogi. But they did have Frye. Year before last, without Gogi or Eric, but with Frye, Suns were doing the sweeping here & away vs. this Pacers team.

    Too small a sample size? What about the year before the year before last year? No Gogi? Not a problem as they had Frye. Same result, as the Suns beat the Pacers both here & on the road. Good hoop minds recognize the intangibles that Frye brings to this team. Wish that more fans on this blog had a good hoops mind. As to last night’s game? Frye only had 10 points (but on just 7 shots) for the game. When we look at his last 2 games collectively, that makes 40 points (20 point scoring average) on only 23 shots (11 1/2 shot average). Show me how many other of our players score with such efficiency. Even though he made 2 of his 3 treys, he still took most of his shots inside the arc in last night’s game, just as he had the previous game. Will be curious as to how well we play next week in Indy. They have only lost once this year at home. I’m sure they will seek revenge vs. our Suns. This is why I was calling for last night’s game to be “the penultimate test.” Not only for Frye, but much more importantly of Jeff’s new offensive plan. In the beginning of the year, Jeff rightfully asked Frye to camp out on the 3-point line. Jeff was doing more than just “spacing the floor.” What he was doing was recognizing that 2 point shots are fine but treys count for 50% more. Now that other teams are planning their game strategy around running the Suns off of the 3-point line, Jeff has come up with a new plan. Take the trey only if open. When defenders run out at them, give a head & shoulders fake & then drive by them. This new plan appears to be a success, considering how many points we have been able to score, even last night vs. the league’s stingiest team. Keep in mind that the last 17 times the Suns have scored 110 or more, we have won each & every game. When Jeff learns how to make the best use of our Brazilian Blur, not as a back up point guard to Gogi but as a 2nd ball handler to play along side of him, like he does with a healthy Eric, that is when Barbosa (beep beep) will be of most help to this team. Make it so Jeff.

    MUST start & ALSO finish with LB. Let’s go SUNS!!!!

  • HushPuppy

    @Forever,

    Great point. Last night, and all national tv games, open the opportunity for other free agents-to-be to watch us and see what we have to offer. I’m happy to say that we are back to being a team that can contend for any free agent. Funny how that happens when guys like Beasley(among others) have the door hit them on the way out.

    Last night’s game was fantastic. I havent been that excited watching a Suns game in a while. What a great victory, and I even got my lady to watch the second half with me which happens once every….never. Go Suns.

  • vtsunrise

    You sold me, Forever. Where do I sign!? I wanna play for this team!!!!!

  • vtsunrise

    I’ve always loved LB and I’m glad to have him back, but when I saw what Ish Swish did with his time last night… That little dude deserves playing time. What an exciting little f…spark plug.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com Emanuel

    Ish Smith man, wow, what an amazing asset the Suns got in him, this guy can really push the ball, he kept Indiana on their heels all night, at least when he came in……he can really see the court and find guys right in the right spot, this kid is a keeper, for the last 2 to 3 games Dragic has not played the 4 quarters, and ISh is a MAJOR reason for that!!!!! Go Suns…..