When: 7:00pm AZ Time
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix AZ
TV: Fox Sports Arizona
Radio: 98.7 FM ArizonaSports
After beating the Phoenix Suns handily last week (I know, the word 'handily' in a given), the Pacers have lost three straight games. They come into Phoenix looking to get better, and judging by the team they face the Pacers have a good shot at just that.
The Pacers (22-19)
After trading Roy Hibbert over the summer, the Pacers have undergone a metamorphosis into a smallish team ready to run and gun. Yet, they still play quite good defense.
The Pacers are not entirely efficient on offense, but they have the league's 8th best differential (net points difference per 100 possessions) while ranking 7th in pace (possessions per game) and 8th in fast break points per game (14.3). Their best attribute is scoring off turnovers, with a whopping 20.1 point per game scored in that fashion. But they also give up a lot of points on turnovers too (17.6), an area the Suns can target.
Where the Pacers become a winning team is with their back court and wing defense. They allow opponents to make only 32% of their three point attempts and they cause the 4th most turnovers. Overall, they boast the league's 3rd best defense.
Oh, and they have one of the very best players in the game of basketball named Paul George. He's come back from a horrific leg injury to put up a whopping 23.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals per game while playing a lot of power forward in the Pacers' smaller lineups.
The Pacers struggle to find consistent scoring outside of George though. Monta Ellis is their second leading scorer at just under 14 points per game, and leads the team with 5.0 assists per game. George Hill has been playing mostly off the ball this year, and C.J. Miles has spent a lot of time at small forward when PG plays the big man role.
The Suns (13-29)
What else is there to say about our home town team?
They apparently played a real hard practice yesterday where they weren't allowed to take breaks unless they got a few stops in a row. Seems easy in a practice against one of the worst NBA offenses of late, but apparently it was not. Eventually, they stopped each other enough to call it a day.
I don't understand the paucity of effort on this team. You just don't lose by 30 to an awful team that was on a 9-game losing streak and had never - as a collection - won an easy game like that. And this wasn't an aberration that snuck up on them. Not after doing the same thing two weeks ago against the Lakers.
The Suns are awful on defense and don't seem interested in improving that lot. They allow the highest opponent shooting percentage by a wide margin. They don't rebound. They don't stop drives. They don't get out on the break for easy points after makes or misses.
And now, desperate Jeff Hornacek has once again lost a staring contest with the players.
Last year, he benched anyone that got stupid techs from arguing calls with officials. That lasted about a week and 2-3 losses later when the stubborn players refused to stop earning techs and collectively decided they'd rather lose games than lose a pissing contest with their coach over playing by the rules.
This year, he benched Markieff Morris for not putting out 100% effort on the court, sending a message to the team he'd rather give minutes to guys like Jon Leuer and Ronnie Price who give it their all. Less than a month later, he's watched the entire team play down in effort level like Keef and now a half-motivated Morris looks engaged by comparison.
Good on ya, guys. You won the battle again. Both times, you won by getting even worse at the thing the coach was trying to stop. Last year: techs. This year: effort.
What's next? Wearing your proper uniform under the warmups? I can see it now. Hornacek will bench a guy for forgetting to don his shorts, and they'll lose because of it. But within a week, after a handful more players have forgotten THEIR shorts, he'll have to start calling timeouts to let them "dress" on the bench before subbing them in.
Or, the entire back court will refuse to create assists, somehow playing an entire game where the starting guards combine for no more than 1 assist in 66 collective minutes of court time and 130 touch--- what? They've already done that? Never mind.
After losing by a thousand points last week to the Pacers, the Suns will only lose by 8 tonight and it will feel like a moral victory.
At least two Suns players will have good games, while two others have head-scratchingly bad games, and the fourth quarter will devolve into the Paul George show as the Pacers pull away in the closing minutes of a relatively interesting game.
But hey, at least the game will be fun!