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Through the Eyes of the Opposition: Suns vs. Pacers

An on going bubble series: The Suns JAM Session guys have reached out to SB Nation representatives of the competition. Here is what they had to say about their team, their chances, and the Phoenix Suns.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns has yet to accomplish the feat of winning four games in a row in his young career, but coming off of a game winning buzzer beater against the Los Angeles Clippers, anything is possible.

What it takes to win four games in a row in the NBA is heart and preparation. As we prepare for what can be a franchise changing game for the Suns against the Indiana Pacers, contributor and podcast host for Mark Schindler joins the Suns JAM Session crew to take us inside the minds of Pacer fans.

Let’s talk about T.J. Warren. What are your thoughts on the Pacers acquiring him?

“He’s been phenomenal,” Mark said. Joyous to have Warren on the Pacers, Mark let us know the difference between Warren’s game this year compared to the previous years in Phoenix.

“I’ve talked to some of the assistant coaches from when he was in Phoenix and they’ve talked about his mentality shift. T.J. has been awesome for us and has been huge, turning into a high-end-wing for us.”

The mentality that Warren had in Phoenix obviously did not match the future of the Suns organization and sometimes players just need a new beginning. This time, it was Warren heading to Indiana, where league wide it is known as a basketball town. A place where superstars may not desire, but a perfect spot for a ball player who just wants to ball.

Mark gave us his reactions to the trade itself:

“James Jones got nothing back and sent him away with a second round pick which was ludicrous. At the same time it was important to get Ricky Rubio and it’s the first point guard you guys have had since Eric Bledsoe said ‘I don’t want to be here’”

Had to bring that up again… but Mark was correct. The Suns needed that point guard even if the process did not look pretty.

Did you know about T.J.’s game before he was traded to Indiana?

“No, I actually had to pull the phone up, no offense.” In Mark’s defense, no one but Suns fans were watching Suns games. “I did know that he was not a good defender. That changed completely in Indiana this year.”

Why do you think that is?

“That’s just what you do in Indiana,” Mark replied.

Warren was a really efficient scorer for the Suns and his defense was poor, like the rest of the team at the time… for five years. With the in-n-out of coaches, there was no stability and that’s where Mark makes the great point, “Dan Burke, defensive coordinator, has been here since the late 90’s. Nate McMillan has always had that kind of mentality.”

How do Pacers fans view these 8 games in the bubble?

Mark begins, “We looked at potentially Victor Oladipo not playing. Domantas Sabonis definitely is not playing. So, we are automatically coming into here thinking, just survive and try to get the hell out of here without any injuries.”

With a win over the Philadelphia 76ers, the Washington Wizards, and the Orlando Magic, the Pacers now are feeling groovy remaining the only other 3-0 team other than the Suns.

“Now 3-0 to start, I think we are just looking at, let’s just get to the first round and see what happens.” Mark isn’t believing too much in the Pacers ability to get past the first round as he goes on, “See if you can make a series against the Milwaukee Bucks.”

Who is the one player for Indiana, casual Suns fans need to know about going into the game?

T.J. McConnell or Justin Holiday” Mark says.

Both defenders, the Pacers will try to get their energy from both players. With Sabonis out, the bench seems to be controlled by both T.J. and Justin. It is up to them to get the best out of the guys coming in the game.

“T.J. is not a shooter, but he will maybe take a three a week at that. But he really sets the tone for the bench. He is pretty feisty on defense but he gets a lot going on the drive and kick game.”

Justin Holiday is going to defend the hell out of anybody.” Mark continues, “He will probably defend Devin Booker, I wouldn’t be surprised.”

Warren and Booker both will have opposing defenses eyeing them from the time the ball is tipped at mid-court.

What are the Pacers strengths?

“This team has a lot of really solid reliable players,” he said. “When this team is fully healthy they have a lot of really good strengths.” When I reflect on their lineup from previous box scores, I think the exact same thing.

Depending on their lineups, Mark says “they can be locked down defensively.”

For an offense during the regular season (pre-pandemic) that didn’t shoot the three at all, Mark says, “They’re taking 11th most 3’s in the league.” The Bubble has been very good to the Pacers who have not been known as a high percentage 3-point shooting team.

Prediction for the game?

“I think that it will be tight,” Mark says. “I will definitely say that the Pacers will probably win. But it’s the bubble, man, and anything can happen.”

Win or lose for the Suns, it is nice to see two teams succeeding when others doubted. Till next time Mark!

Suns vs. Pacers starts at 1:00pm AZ time, on Fox Sports Arizona (TV) and ESPN 620 AM (Radio).

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