They say the NBA is where amazing happens. Well for the last five days, amazing happens wherever Goran Dragic and the Phoenix Suns come to play. Their 102-94 win over the Pacers is just the latest in a string of incredible performances.
Tonight’s victory was the Suns’ fourth in a row, and it moved them to 4-0 on their Eastern Conference road trip. Phoenix led for all but the first two minutes of this one despite the fact that this was their fourth game in five nights. This was the Suns’ second win over the Pacers in nine days. Indiana is currently tops in the Eastern Conference standings and trails OKC by only two games for the best record in the NBA. The Suns scored more points in a half than any other Pacers’ opponent this season. They shot 53% from the field in the first half and led by 17 points at halftime. Their early success was mostly due to another incredible performance by Goran Dragic.
Though he missed out on an All Star selection (for now) the Dragon came out breathing fire. He had already netted 21 points and handed out five assists by halftime. Despite a litany of bumps and bruises, including a very swollen left elbow and a bruised knee, Goran was aggressive and quick from the jump. He pushed the ball up the floor every chance he got. He set the Pacers back on their heels and found teammates in great spots. Dragic was responsible for half of Phoenix’s first half baskets, and looked like the best player on the floor, despite the presence of Paul George and Roy Hibbert.
The Pacers clawed their way back in the third quarter, outscoring Phoenix 25-11 in the period. The Suns looked fatigued and frustrated as their shots stopped falling and the officials tightened up what had been a very physical game. The increase in whistles led to technicals for both PJ Tucker and Dragic, and spurred the Pacers to erase Phoenix’s double-digit lead.
Heading into the final frame, Indiana had all the momentum and trailed by just three, but the Suns never relinquished their lead, thanks primarily to the Morris twins. Marcus and Markieff combined for 16 of the Suns 25 points in the quarter. Their jumpers were falling, and they both were able to get to the rim and draw contact. When the Suns were backed up against the wall, the twins came through and saved the day.
This win and this road trip as a whole are major statements by the Suns. After their last road trip resulted in four close losses, to win four straight away from home is a big step for this team. For more analysis on tonight’s game, let’s look at our three preview questions.
Will the Suns become the second road team to score 100 points against the Pacers?
Yes sir. Phoenix is just the second team to defeat the Pacers at home this year. Indiana is now 21-2 on their home floor. After putting up 66 points in the first half, 100 seemed like a foregone conclusion for the Suns, but their impotent effort in the third quarter put the century mark in serious doubt. Phoenix broke triple digits with less than a minute left when P.J. Tucker corralled a long rebound off a Paul George miss and quickly underhand flipped a pass to a streaking Dragic who had just enough left in his legs to dunk it home. That breakaway put the Suns up by six, and put the nail in Indy’s coffin.
Can George Hill contain a banged-up Goran Dragic?
Not even a little bit. Despite carrying more than one injury into this game, Goran was unstoppable in the early going. He abused George Hill in transition and in the high pick and roll. Even with Hibbert protecting the rim, Dragic got clean looks at the hoop in the key and made the most of his opportunities going 8-of-12 from the field. In the second half, the Pacers switched Paul George onto Dragic which really slowed him down. After his big first half, Dragic managed just seven points and two assists in the second. But the added defensive pressure didn’t keep Dragic from contributing. Late in the fourth and leading by only two, Dragic was being guarded by George, which left George Hill on Gerald Green. Dragic smartly got the ball to Green who scored four straight points and kept the Suns’ lead intact.
Will Phoenix see Good Roy or Bad Roy?
This was Better Roy, but definitely not Best Roy. In the first half, Hibbert missed 8 of his 12 shots and had just one rebound. The Suns did an excellent job of making it tough for him to score and get clean looks at the hoop. In the second half, he was much more effective. He used his body to get great position and went 5-for-5 from the field. The Suns tried multiple defenders on him, but nothing short of his teammates refusing to pass him the ball could slow Hibbert down in the second half. He finished the game with 26 points and six rebounds. Under the circumstances, the Suns did their best against Roy, especially when you consider that he played nearly 38 minutes, yet Alex Len and Miles Plumlee combined for less than 28 minutes played. Phoenix actually hung with the Pacers on the boards, narrowly losing the battle 47-46. Indiana gave Hibbert no help on the boards. On both ends, he was often the only white and yellow jersey within 10 feet of the hoop.
- Lance Stephenson had a triple double – his fifth of the season – with 14 points and 10 rebounds and assists.
- Gerald Green’s decision making is much improved. Earlier in the year, he tended to get jumpshot happy, but now he is making the right decision on whether to drive or shoot nearly much more often.
- Two honest questions: 1) Is Goran Dragic the best guard at scoring in transition in the NBA? Is there a better trio of player in transition than Dragic, Green, and P.J. Tucker?
- Phoenix got 40 points from three bench players: Marcus (16), Markieff (15), and Leandro Barbosa (9). The second unit’s offense is much improved. They have introduced several new offensive sets, including a 1-4 high set with multiple screens on the block that produced several easy baskets.