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Game Preview: Scorching Suns (35-9) Host Pacers (17-29)

Phoenix has won five in a row, while Indiana is coming off of upsets against the Lakers and Warriors

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Indiana Pacers Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns (35-9) vs. Indiana Pacers (17-29)

When: 7:00 PM AZ Time

Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, AZ

Watch: Bally’s Sports AZ

Listen: 98.7 FM


Tonight, the Phoenix Suns square off with the Indiana Pacers for the second time in just over a week. Book lead the way with 35 in the prior matchup, as Phoenix secured an 18-point victory. Since that game, Devin has recorded 106 points, and the Suns have bested the Pistons, Spurs, and Mavs.

The Pacers have experienced a fun run of their own lately, handing LeBron and the Lakers a seven-point defeat before an OT vanquish of Steph Curry and the Dubs. What makes the Golden State victory particularly impressive was the host of unavailable players in Rick Carlisle’s squad. Not only were Myles Turner and former Sun T.J. Warren out with long-term injuries, but Indiana was missing Malcolm Brogdon, Caris Levert, and Domantas Sabonis.


Lineups and Injuries

Suns

Probable Starters:

PG- Chris Paul

SG- Devin Booker

SF- Mikal Bridges

PF- Jae Crowder

C- JaVale McGee

Injuries: Deandre Ayton (OUT), Abdel Nader (OUT), Dario Saric (OUT), Frank Kaminsky (OUT)

Pacers

PG- Malcolm Brogdon OR Keifer Sykes

SG- Caris Levert OR Chris Duarte

SF- Justin Holiday

PF- Torrey Craig

C- Goga Bitadze

Injuries: Myles Turner (OUT), TJ Warren (OUT), TJ McConnell (OUT), Domantis Sabonis (DOUBTFUL), Malcolm Brogdon (QUESTIONABLE), Caris Levert (QUESTIONABLE)

State of the Suns

The best backcourt in the NBA belongs with its best team. Chris Paul and Devin Booker both deserve to make the all-star game, and their nightly performances have provided Phoenix with some cushion in the standings. Paul’s agelessness was on display once again Thursday, as he registered 20 points, 11 assists, and zero turnovers while dominating the fourth quarter. If Book continues his reign of terror, he could earn another Western Conference Player of the Week award. Since the team’s return stateside, Book is averaging 35.3 PPG on 51% FG. During that same stretch, Cam Payne has averaged 13.5 PPG and 3.5 APG on 54% FG.

Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, and Jae Crowder continue to comprise a criminally underrated forward rotation. The group may not feature a traditional star, but they provide abundant shooting and defense around the Suns’ incredible backcourt. Each player is a consistent difference-maker who routinely makes winning plays. The trio combined for 32 points, 18 rebounds, and seven steals in Thursday’s win over Dallas.

JaVale McGee should fill in as the starting center. This has not been his best week in a Suns’ uniform, but it need not worry fans. He is rock steady, and tonight should be an opportunity for a bounce back game. Behind him, Bismack Biyombo continues to thrive when given opportunities. He plays with relentless energy and a fundamental understanding of his role. Be on the lookout for Stix minutes tonight as well.

State of the Pacers

This team has been hit hard by the injury bug, with Domantas Sabonis’s ankle injury the latest to plague them.

If Brogdon could go tonight, it would provide the Pacers with some length to bother Paul and Book on the perimeter. His three-point shooting has been a bit off this year, but when healthy he is a quality player with a well-rounded game. Caris Levert is also questionable, and his absence would create a dearth of scoring that the Pacers could be hard-pressed to replicate. Behind those two, Indiana can turn to exciting rookie Chris Duarte, the indomitable Keifer Sykes, or Pacer legend Lance Stephenson. Duarte could get a long look down the stretch this year, which Indiana fans may be pining for. He looked great in Thursday’s 27-point performance against the Warriors.

The Pacers forward rotation seems to be of interest to Suns’ fans, given the year-long social media call to acquire (or re-acquire) Justin Holiday or Torrey Craig. In a rebuilding season, Holiday has continued to display the shooting, defense, and intangibles that would make him a perfect fit in a Suns’ uniform. Imagining Craig in a Suns’ jersey may be a bit easier. His numbers may not stand out (5.8 PPG and 3.7 RPG), but his energy and switchability are wonderful.

When Indiana is healthy, they boast two of the singular big man talents in today’s game. Indiana is not healthy. Tonight, they figure to feature 2019 first-round pick Goga Bitadze. Goga was having a solid performance in the Bay Thursday, right until Gary Payton II posterized him. To make matters worse, he made contact with Payton after the play and was ejected. Look for Isaiah Jackson to get some run as well.

Prediction Time

Indiana may be coming off of impressive back-to-back knockouts, but they are outmatched tonight. Even if Phoenix stumbles out of the gate, their talent and chemistry will get them back into the game. Book continues his torrid run, and the Suns win, 122-105.