Preview: Phoenix Suns (27-18) at Indiana Pacers (35-9)


Time: 5:00 p.m. MST

TV: FSA

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The Phoenix Suns are on the verge of completing a rather rare feat — one they haven’t achieved since Feb. 2010.

With a victory Thursday night, Phoenix would complete its first sweep of a road trip lasting at least four games since the franchise’s riveting run to the Western Conference Finals four years ago.

To do so, though, Jeff Hornacek and Co. will have to pull off an even rarer feat: Become the first team in 2013-14 to beat the NBA’s top team, the Indiana Pacers, twice.

Only eight days removed from their nationally-televised 124-100 romp job over the Pacers, the Suns head into Bankers Life Fieldhouse trying to put the bow on what has already been a successful road trip away from US Airways Center, but the finishing touches might be hard to apply.

Aside from the obvious revenge factor, the Pacers managed to squeeze in a day of rest following a return from their own stretch of games played away from home (3-2), while the Suns will be playing their fourth game in five nights.

Couple in the fact that Indiana boasts the NBA’s best home record (21-1), and it appears Phoenix has quite a challenge on its hands if it wants to pull of some organizational history.

Here’s a look at three compelling questions going into Thursday’s non-conference affair:

Will the Suns become the second road team to score 100 points against the Pacers?

In their eight wins during the month of January, the Suns have averaged nearly 119 points per game — a total that would surely make the S.S.O.L squads of old smile fondly.

Factoring in its two most recent offensive performances, Phoenix has recorded four 120-point games over the last 30 days, including the 124 it hung on Indiana nearly a week ago.

With that said, Frank Vogel’s squad is an entirely different defensive team when playing inside the Hoosier State. In 22 home contests this season, the Pacers have allowed an NBA-low 84.0 points per game. And, arguably more impressive is the fact that they’ve allowed just one road team, the Detroit Pistons, to reach the century mark in 2013-14.

So in a battle of strength vs. strength, who wins out Thursday night?

Can George Hill contain a banged-up Goran Dragic?

During the teams’ first head-to-head matchup, the answer was a flat out no. Dragic had his way with Hill and got to the basket almost at will. Although the Suns guard only finished with three assists, he managed to set up several open looks from three-point range, in addition to the 21 points he poured in on 8-of-10 shooting.

While Indiana switched All-Star forward Paul George out on Dragic in the second half, the adjustment came a quarter or two late, as the Suns were already leading comfortably in what would turn out to be a 24-point rout.

Eight days isn’t a lot of time to make adjustments, especially when it comes to lateral quickness at the defensive end, but it’ll be interesting if Hill gleans anything from film study that he can use to slow down “The Dragon.”

At this point, maybe an injury is the only thing that can slow down Dragic.

Despite scoring 30 points in only 23 minutes of play in a 126-117 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, Dragic managed to bang his elbow Wednesday night — an injury that required an X-ray following the contest.

The X-ray on the swollen elbow proved to be negative, but it’ll be interesting to see whether or not it limits the 27-year-old in ways Hill can not.

Will Phoenix see Good Roy or Bad Roy?

In the Pacers’ last three losses, center Roy Hibbert has averaged an abysmal 4.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. In essence, as Hibbert has gone, so too have the Pacers.

Back on Jan. 22, former teammate Miles Plumlee had his way with the 2012 All-Star, bodying him up possession after possession on the block, contesting easy looks and making his life difficult at the defensive end. After going head-to-head in practice for a full season, there are no real secrets between Hibbert and Plumlee. Each knows where the other likes to catch the basketball, what type of shot fakes could create some upward movement, etc.

The only difference, however, is that Plumlee’s skill set has likely progressed more between 2012-13 and 2013-14 than Hibbert’s has, simply based on the fact he’s getting a chance to start every game for the first time in his NBA career.

However, now that the mentor has had a chance to witness the mentee’s on-court growth first-hand, odds are he’s not going to allow a repeat performance to take place.

 

 

 

 

Tags: Goran Dragic Indiana Pacers Phoenix Suns Preview Roy Hibbert

  • sunsn7

    The “must see” game of the season thus far..with several more on the horizon.

    Rough road to the playoffs for the Young Suns.

  • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

    If Miles struggles to contain Hibbert than Hornacek needs to use Alex Len who can look Big Roy in the eyes.

    Green and Markieff must continue to play well.

    Goodwin is due for a break-out game maybe tonight?

  • http://none Go Phx

    Goodwin hasn’t been playing and certainly won’t get any minutes tonight, so how could he break out? Probably won’t see too much Len either. Anyway, let’s just keep it close and have a chance at the end. That’s all you can ask.

  • JZ

    It’s okay to lose this one guys. Although looking at the schedule, Phoenix is going to have a tough schedule throughout February…

  • sunsn7

    Yeah Goodwin’s been glued to the bench lately..but can definitely see Len logging some time, using his 6 fouls to the full extent, grab some needed rebounds.

    My “player to watch” is Gerald Green. If he can reproduce the same intensity that he did in the first meeting, with the chip on his shoulder and snarl on his face, it could serve to inspire his road weary teammates.

    Hornacek got some rest for his starters so I fully expect the Suns to be competitive. It’d really be something if they can finish the trip by stunning Indiana..again.

  • http://www.phoenixsuns.com Gary Boersma

    This should be a good challenge again for the Suns. It will depend on Goran on how well he can play after hurting his elbow in the previous match with the Bucks. Hopefully Goran will get through it with the help of Green, Frye, Plumlee and the twins. Barbosa is due for a good game and if Bledsoe was in the game it would be a win hands down for the Suns. It definitely
    will be an interesting game to say the least. So give it your best shot Phoenix only time will tell.

  • JK

    Funny how this article says that the Pacers are the NBA’s top team. Has anybody been watching the Thunder lately? They just EMBARRASSED the defending champs last night. OKC is surely the NBA’s top team right now. They are playing head and shoulders above everyone else.

  • JK

    That being said, tonight’s rematch should be very interesting, and I’m hoping that we can come out of this road trip unscathed.

  • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

    Doesn’t Dragic have a swollen elbow?

    Hasn’t Barbosa’s shoulder been limiting his effectiveness?

    Isn’t Bledsoe still out from knee surgery?

    So that leaves Green and Ish as the two fully healthy guards (Christmas sucks).

    The Pacers guards are big, Stephenson is Goodwin’s size.

    So if Dragic is limited by his swollen elbow and the Pacers jump out to a big lead, Hornacek absolutely will not give Goodwin any burn?

    I must have missed that tweet.

    Why do you think Hornacek recalled Goodwin for this road trip after only two games for Bakersfield?

    Goodwin lit up Sioux Falls and Reno for 30/6 in two games and hit 15 of 18 FTs.

    If Barbosa is going to clank up three-pointers at 14% clip, I think Hornacek might not have much of a choice.

  • HunterSThompson

    Hello All!

    Something went haywire with my computer about a month ago and I could not post on the sight for some reason. I would type big posts and hit submit…just to have the screen reload with no sign of my post in the thread or in the comment box. Very frustrating to say the least!

    Anyway, it appears the problem has been resolved, and I am happy to have access again. I just read this nice feature story on the Suns, posted today. Enjoy! http://grantland.com/features/from-the-ashes/

  • http://none Go Phx

    Goodwin was always planned to go down for only 2 games. It’s not a coincidence. Barbosa has been playing significant minutes and will continue to. I expect Dragic to play, but even if he doesn’t, it won’t open up enough minutes for Goodwin for him to have some huge game.

  • BUTLER

    Suns find themselves in the other team’s shoes now. Back to back, while the home team rests.

    One would think both Plum Good and Green in their first visit to Indy as SUNS will be motivated.

    If Green replaces Bledsoe then perhaps the lackers take Bledsoe.

  • sunsn7

    I read that article too Hunter. Very insightful.

    GAMETIME

  • sunsn7

    Damn Suns are balling hard, really appreciate their hustle and teamwork!

    Sustain, sustain!

  • sunsn7

    Suns trying to weather this storm. Big lead evaporated, Pacers getting physical, answering Tucker and Green’s verbal assaults (which I dont mind at all, they back it up). Suns holding on…

  • sunsn7

    Great win! The Fieldhouse crowd is stunned!…and so are many Suns fans!
    :)

  • vtsunrise

    I’m a believer. I can’t believe what I just saw. But I can. And I do! Suns. Believe!

  • vtsunrise

    Just when you were sure they were going to fold up like a lawn chair and go home, they said F… you. We’re rewriting this script. This is a dangerous team. The Suns, they don’t even know how good they are, but they’re getting an inkling.

    Got to hand it to Hibbert, though, he’s a force to be reckoned with. Unbelievably strong defensive presence. How many shots did he alter? But they found a way to hang tough.

    Indiana is hoping and praying they don’t meet the Suns in the NBAS finals!

  • Dave:f32

    Now Im a believer. Not a trace of doubt in my mind. Im. In love! Playoff bound. Suns. To win it all a way they will find! Not even Lebron James dare stop the Phoenix Win train…. Yeh yeh yeh yeahhhhh

    Suns 2 , Pacers 0. In a 7-game series! This Suns team has its weaknesses but winning aint one of them. Good effort by all, and way to hang on for a Dub

  • Anonymous

    All this without Bledsoe. Finally the suns are back in the picture. Been a suns fan forever and never hopped on the winning team bandwagon when we had losing records for the past few years. Hopefully we can make this team even stronger by signing a good player like Love or something. (Just no melo plz).

    Planet Orange stand up!