Indiana played the Suns mostly even all night, but put together an explosive run in the third quarter to take down Phoenix, 122-111.
The game began with both teams playing at quite a high level, feeling one another out as you’d expect.
Malcolm Brogdon and Devin Booker started out on one another, and both players leveraged their advantages to go at each other for nine of the first 31 total points in the game.
At the same time, Deandre Ayton tried to use his hustle and athleticism to keep pace with Domantas Sabonis, as Ayton had a flashy assist and transition dunk while Sabonis scored seven early points.
Good read here from Mikal Bridges to slip to the rim with LeVert and Brogdon expecting a flare screen for Devin Booker. #Suns called timeout, trailing Indiana 17-14 with 5:54 left in the first quarter. Phoenix has all of its points in the paint. pic.twitter.com/E2DmqKngxi— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) March 14, 2021
As for Caris LeVert, making his debut after a surgery to remove a cancerous mass from his kidney, the former Net played with great energy on both ends in his first game back, proving a tough test for Mikal Bridges. Though LeVert was rusty, he looked like himself.
The Pacers were up, 17-14, at the first break.
After that, Monty Williams brought Dario Saric in as the backup four, skipping out on Jae Crowder’s spot in the rotation against the imposing Indiana front line. The next lineup look included Saric at the 5 with Crowder at the 4 and Abdel Nader at the 3, since Indiana plays pretty small in the second unit with Doug McDermott playing power forward.
Both teams traded baskets until the end of the first quarter, at which point the Suns led, 33-29.
The first mistake came when Monty started the second period with both Booker and Chris Paul on the bench, and the Pacers promptly went on an 11-0 run, led by Sabonis and Aaron Holiday, as well as two Suns turnovers.
That prompted a quick timeout from Monty, at which point he put Paul back in the game. The Suns answered with a 6-1 run of their own, with all the points coming from back-to-back E’Twaun Moore threes.
Down 8, no problem.— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) March 14, 2021
E'Twaun has your back-to-back 3's! pic.twitter.com/SIZ0pN3G5H
The second period was when LeVert really got going, scoring nine points in the frame and putting pressure on the rim. He’s so explosive and angular with his game that he was a somewhat tough matchup for Bridges.
At the same time, Booker was quiet in the half, shooting 3-9 from the field. He also got into it with the officials yet again, the issue slowly building throughout the quarter until Booker fell hard after contact from Brogdon. A moment later, Ayton was called for an iffy foul on Brogdon himself, and Booker let the referees know he was bothered.
The Suns went into the locker room at halftime down, 62-57.
Booker didn’t waste any time in the second half. He threw a sloppy pass at the top of the arc early in the period and rather than give up, sprinted down the court for one of his signature chase-down blocks on Justin Holiday. The ball caromed toward the sideline near the Suns’ bench, and Booker saved it back in-bounds to Paul. The Point God took care of the rest, dishing a slick pass to Bridges to finish the play.
If Book turns it over...watch out. pic.twitter.com/tRoFCYMFHW— Mike Vigil (@protectedpick) March 14, 2021
A beat later, Booker got it himself in transition and pulled up for three, bringing the Suns within five again, 71-66.
Timeouts continued to kill the Suns, and before long, it was a 10-point lead for Indiana all over again. Monty called a timeout after the sixth turnover of the period.
The wheels basically fell off after that, as the Pacers’ lead ballooned to 20 by the end of the third period, as the Suns began to force shots, had no answer for Myles Turner’s interior defense, and offered Indiana a ton of layups, dunks and free throws.
To start the fourth, Monty tried out Nader and Jevon Carter in the lineup to bring some energy, and the Suns cut Indiana’s lead to 13 in short order.
Pacers coach Nate Bjorkgren called timeout with 7:05 left and his team up, 104-91.
The Suns kept pushing, but McDermott and Brogdon kept them at bay. Bridges hit a three with about four minutes left that cut the Indiana lead to single digits, but Brogdon responded yet again to give himself 22 points on the night.
Crafty layup from Brogdon. Pacers lead by 13 with 3:10 to go: pic.twitter.com/S2hhyYHScF— Tony East (@TEastNBA) March 14, 2021
This whole saga came next:
Suns turn the ball over on entry pass to Saric, then Mikal draws a foul on Brogdon.— Brendon Kleen (@BrendonKleen14) March 14, 2021
After several chippy moments, Paul gets called for a T on the other end of the floor.
Brogdon makes the FT.
Suns still down 13.
But it was too little, too late, as the Suns couldn’t mount a full comeback after their third quarter collapse.