The Indiana Pacers made their only trip of the year to Talking Stick Resort Arena and blew out the Phoenix Suns, largely thanks to the recently-departed T.J. Warren.
The Phoenix Suns lost to the Indiana fighting T.J.s (they have three of them) Wednesday night, and lost is an understatement. The Suns only scored 87 points, and it felt like a lot less.
The whole team never really seemed to get it going. Booker was off. Rubio was off. It simply wasn’t the Suns’ night.
On top of the players not having their best nights, Monty Williams seemed to be off. Perhaps it wasn’t his fault, but the team didn’t play like they normally do. The cuts, slashes, drives, and passing that has made this team so fun to watch was replaced Wednesday night with more isolation play.
The Suns, who have been near the top of the league in assists per game all year, only managed 13 against the Pacers.
Moreover, the isolation plays often led to a mid-range jumper rather than a shot around the basket or a kick-out for an open 3. Regardless where they shot the ball, it often did not go in.
The Suns were 0-7 from behind the arc in the first half and I’m not sure which of those numbers is more frustrating: the fact they didn’t make any or the fact they only shot seven.
By game’s end, they shot a putrid 20% from 3, and 35% overall from the field.
With Baynes and Cameron Johnson both still out with ailments, the Suns were short-handed, so perhaps this played into the poor performance, but there isn’t just one thing we can point to.
The thing that stuck out to me is that even with the team’s short bench: Tyler Johnson still didn’t play.
If he’s not playing in this game, it is safe to say the team is shelving him in hopes of packaging his contract in a trade deal before the deadline.
In his absence, Jevon Carter and Ty Jerome got playing time at the 2-guard spot, backing up Devin Booker, with Elie Okobo running the point. I’m all for getting these guys some reps, but playing struggling backup point guards out of position doesn’t seem to be the best recipe for success.
The drama within the game, however, clearly revolved around T.J. Warren‘s triumphant return to Talking Stick Resort Arena after being traded (more like sold considering the only asset the Suns received in the transaction was cash) to Indiana this offseason.
Not many Suns fans were whining about Warren’s departure, but he is playing well for his new team, and of course, put up a game-high 25 points against his former team.
T.J. handled it like a pro, saying after the game:
"“There were a lot of emotions but as soon as the ball went into the air it was time to play basketball and that’s all I was focused on. It definitely felt good to come back to a place where I spent five years. Like I said before, they gave me my start, they started my career. I’m very grateful for that and it feels good to get a win.”"
And on the same note, whoever runs the Indiana Pacers’ official Twitter account either needs to be fired or get a raise. If I were in charge, I’d give them a raise.
The Tweet has since been deleted, but credit where it is due. That is really good.
The Phoenix Suns on this night, however, were not really good. Let’s chock this up to being one-of-those-games and look forward to the rematch against the San Antonio Spurs Friday night.