The Pacers got within 6 in the final four minutes, but then the Suns defense locked down and they created enough scoring to stretch the lead.
Chris Paul was sublime running the pick and roll to death against the undersized Pacers, and backup centers JaVale McGee and Bismack Biyombo each had a double-double by the beginning of the 4th quarter.
But not all the news was good. In fact, some news is scary: both Cameron Payne and Jae Crowder went down in heaps on driving layups, and both sustained wrist injuries to put them out the rest of the game. Payne played momentarily through his, but Crowder hopped up, held his left arm tight to his body and ran immediately to the Suns locker room. Now we await news in the coming days on their status. The Suns are already down Ayton, Kaminksky, Nader and Saric.
Back to the game.
The Suns backup centers were excellent against the Pacers utter lack of size beyond Goga Bitadze. The Pacers were missing both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis, plus three other starters.
Still, great games are great games.
Both JaVale McGee (13 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Bismack Biyombo (21 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks) were unstoppable all game and Chris Paul (18 points, 16 assists, 4 steals) was wonderful to watch.
Also, Mikal Bridges scored a season high 23 points, tying a game earlier this season.
Suns played this game once again without Deandre Ayton, but were otherwise as health as usual (no Dario, Frank or Abdel).
The Pacers were missing ALL of their best starters: Malcolm Brogdon (achilles soreness), Caris LeVert (calf), Domantas Sabonis (ankle), Myles Turner (foot) and T.J. Warren (foot/hasn’t played since Bubble), and even went without bench sparkplug T.J. McConnell (wrist). Phew.
Still, that same depleted group beat the Lakers, Warriors and Jazz in the past two weeks, so the Suns better not sleep walk through this game...
On the plus side for Suns fans who like to rosterbate, we get to see a ton of Torrey Craig and Justin Holliday, a pair of wings that are getting big minutes with the depleted Pacers and are rumored to be available in trade. They both conveniently fit into a trade, salary-wise, for Jalen Smith (who is back to not playing again).
Opening tip won by the Suns.
After being the subject of a Suns trivia question this morning by Cody Hunt on Suns Solar Panel as the Suns player LEAST likely to commit a foul this year, Bridges commits a foul on a Pacers three-point shooter on their first possession.
The Suns seemed to have this game easily in hand, taking a 10-4 lead early before getting a bit sloppier and allowing the Pacers to get open shots. Soon, the Suns had fumbled away from possessions while the Pacers took a 20-18 lead, forcing Monty Williams to call a timeout to focus the guys.
To the Pacers credit, they are flying around on defense, giving maximum effort on every possession and getting good shot-making on the other end.
Pacers up 25-24 after one quarter. Devin Booker missed 6 of 7 shots in the quarter. The Suns made more shots overall (11 to 9) but are down because they’ve been out-three’d 3 to 0 and out-FTd 4 to 2.
With Chris Paul returning to start the second quarter, the Suns took the lead back to go up 43-35 and create some separation.
Devin Booker continued to have a tough day, missing two more jumpers in the second quarter before getting a fast break layup from Chris Paul off a steal. Still, Indiana wouldn’t go away, and were down only 55-49 with 3:19 left in the half. They helped themselves by getting to the line 17 times.
Keeping the Suns in the game was Chris Paul, who also must have listened to the Solar Panel where I pointed out he usually takes like two shots in the first half of games. In this one, Paul was aggressive and finished the half big: 14 points (on 6-6 shooting), 9 assists, 2 rebounds and a steal. Mikal Bridges has been aggressive too, with 13 on 6-8 shooting (only one of them a three).
Suns led only 59-54 at half. I’m guessing the Suns will make some second-half adjustments to limit the Pacers scoring chances.
The Suns started the second half with a stop on one end and a layup on the other. Let’s see if they can sustain the energy against a depleted but surprisingly competitive Pacers team that beat Golden State and the Lakers this week.
Cam Payne is out the whole second half after hurting his wrist on a drive to the hole for an and-one, and will not play the second half. Now the Suns will have to turn to Elfrid Payton.
The Suns finally got a bit more separation with defensive effort turning into easy transition buckets, capped by a Mikal Bridges three that put the Suns up 75-61 halfway through the 3rd quarter.
Bridges tied his season high with 23 points a minute later, but then Jae Crowder went down in a heap off a fast break as he landed into the stanchion. He immediately held his arm close to his body as he ran full speed off the court to the locker room. uh oh.
Now Crowder (left wrist) and Payne (wrist) both out, with Ayton (ankle) already out. Still they got up 15-20 points most of the rest of the quarter and sailed through the 4th.