What: Phoenix Suns (22-24) vs. Indiana Pacers (23-23)
When: 7:00 p.m. AZ Time
Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, Arizona
Watch: Bally Sports AZ
Listen: 98.7 FM
DraftKings Betting Lines: Suns favored by 5.5 points
The Phoenix Suns face the Indiana Pacers in the second straight home game for Phoenix at the Footprint Center Saturday night at 7 p.m. MT. The game will be televised by Bally Sports Arizona.
The Suns are coming off a 117-112 win versus the Brooklyn Nets. It was much-needed since they were 2-12 in their previous 14 games.
Phoenix got a much-needed return from usual starting power forward Cam Johnson, who had been out since November due to a right meniscus tear. He had 19 points and six rebounds in just under 22 minutes and was a big factor for a Suns team that has been heavily depleted by injuries.
On his standing ovation he received when he entered the game off the bench, Johnson said: “ it just shows how much this arena, this city, these fans care and I appreciate it so much. Gave me juice, think it gave the team a little juice, but I just want to say, I missed 37 games, can’t tell you how good it felt to back out there.”
The Suns also had big games from starting forward Mikal Bridges, who had a team-high 28 points on 9-of-19 shooting (2-of-5 from 3-point range) with nine assists and two rebounds, and starting center Deandre Ayton, who had 24 points on 11-of-20 shooting with 14 rebounds and four assists.
Phoenix will face an Indiana team that has reeled of late. The Pacers have lost five straight games against the following opponents: the New York Knicks (119-113); Atlanta Hawks (113-111); Memphis Grizzlies (130-112); Milwaukee Bucks (132-119); and Oklahoma City Thunder (126-106).
Indiana will be without one of its top players and best young talents in the game, starting guard Tyrese Haliburton, after he suffered a sprained left elbow and mild knee bruise in his team’s loss to the Knicks Jan. 12. Haliburton is the team’s leading scorer ahead of guard Buddy Hield (17.6 points per game), former Arizona Wildcat guard Bennedict Mathurin (17.1 points per game) and center Myles Turner (17.1 points per game).
The Pacers’ next-leading scorer is Jalen Smith, who was drafted No. 10 overall by the Suns in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Indiana is coached by Rick Carlisle, who led the Dallas Mavericks to an NBA championship in 2011. The Pacers are the No. 9 team in the Eastern Conference.
Here are some of the notable statistics for each team provided by TeamRankings.
- Points per game: Phoenix (No. 19, 112.7), Indiana (No. 12, 115.3)
- Assists per game: Phoenix (No. 5, 26.8), Indiana (No. 7, 26.7)
- Rebounds per game: Phoenix (No. 15, 51.7), Indiana (No. 16, 51.2)
- Average scoring margin: Phoenix (No. 14, +0.5), Indiana (No. 24, -1.2)
- Offensive efficiency: Phoenix (No. 15), Indiana (No. 21)
- Team shooting percentage: Phoenix (No. 21, 46.4), Indiana (No. 23, 45.9)
- Effective field goal percentage: Phoenix (No. 18, 53.5), Indiana (No. 16, 53.8)
- 3-point percentage: Phoenix (No. 3, 38.4), Indiana (No. 12, 36.5)
- 2-point percentage: Phoenix (No. 30 (last), 51.1), Indiana (No. 22, 53.0)
- Blocks per game: Phoenix (No. 13, 4.9), Indiana (No. 3, 6.0)
- Steals per game: Phoenix (No. 19, 6.9), Indiana (No. 8, 7.9)
- Turnovers per game: Phoenix (No. 15, 14.3), Indiana (No. 24, 15.4)
- Opponent points per game: Phoenix (No. 9, 112.2), Indiana (No. 22, 116.5)
- Opponent shooting percentage: Phoenix (No. 19, 47.5), Indiana (No. 13, 46.9)
- Opponent effective field-goal percentage: Phoenix (No. 16, 54.1), Indiana (No. 14, 54.1)
- Defensive efficiency: Phoenix (No. 12), Indiana (No. 18)
- Opponent 3-point percentage: Phoenix (No. 22, 36.4), Indiana (No. 28, 37.2)
- Opponent 2-point percentage: Phoenix (No. 12, 53.8), Indiana (No. 8, 53.1)
- Opponent total rebounds per game: Phoenix (No. 9, 50.6), Indiana (No. 26, 53.7)
Likely Starting Lineups
- G Damion Lee
- F Mikal Bridges
- F Torrey Craig
- F Dario Saric
- C Deandre Ayton*
- G Andrew Nembhard
- G Buddy Hield
- F Aaron Nesmith
- F Oshae Brissett
- C Myles Turner
*Midday update: Chris Paul is OUT; Deandre Ayton (non-COVID illness) is QUESTIONABLE
- G Chris Paul (hip soreness) is OUT
- F Josh Okogie (nose) is QUESTIONABLE
- G Devin Booker (groin) is OUT
- F Cam Johnson (right knee management) is OUT
- G Landry Shamet (right foot soreness) is OUT
- G Cameron Payne (right foot strain) is OUT
- F Jae Crowder (chillin at home) is NOT WITH TEAM
- G Tyrese Haliburton (sprained left elbow and mild knee bruise) is OUT
- G Kendall Brown (stress reaction in right tibia) is OUT
- C Daniel Theis (left knee) is OUT
Courtesy of lockervision.nba.com
What to Watch For
The Suns had a much-needed win over the Nets and seemingly have confidence after a long period of losing.
However, they will be depleted again versus the Pacers. Johnson is out to manage his right knee and Phoenix will need big efforts again from Bridges and Ayton, who did their part against the Nets.
It seems like the Suns need to weather the storm with their current ailments before this team can be viewed as it is. Phoenix has not been able to win games with several key players out and needs to continue to stay within striking distance of the Western Conference standings.
The Suns are only 2.5 games back of the No. 5 seed and have a chance to go on a run once they return Booker and others. To do so, they will need to maximize opportunities on their schedule. The Pacers will be a threat considering their guard play with Hield and Mathurin and Turner at center, which should be a fun matchup to watch with Ayton.
Both teams rank near each other in rebounding and it is likely that could determine the game. If Ayton can create an edge against Turner, that should give the Suns a positive advantage as well.
The Suns and Timberwolves have played 95 times in their history dating back to the 1976-77 season. Phoenix leads the all-time series 52-43 and has won four of the last five meetings, including both games last season.
Keys to a Suns Win
The Suns received a huge boost with Johnson’s return Thursday night but will be without his presence Saturday, which they will surely miss. Johnson is not only one of the Suns’ best players but needs to be relied on as much as he can for the team to overcome several injuries. Unfortunately for Phoenix, that just cannot happen right now since he is working his way back in the lineup.
Indiana has solid guard play with Hield, who leads the league in 3-pointers made this season (176), and Mathurin, who was the Pac-12 Player of the Year at Arizona last season and is a big scoring threat off the bench. Phoenix’s backcourt will have its hands full defensively.
Backup guard Duane Washington Jr. will need to be a spark for the Suns off the bench as well as Lee, who started against the Nets. Lee has upped his scoring with some of Phoenix’s top guards out and will need to have a solid game on both ends to keep the Suns in contention.
The Suns looked like they were somewhat back to their normal ways from their last two-and-a-half seasons Thursday night. It should give them some confidence moving forward, but they still have work to do to elevate in the conference standings.
Indiana is a solid team that can play inside-out, so the Suns will have a tall task defensively. Phoenix will be at home, which should help its chances. We’ll take the Suns pulling out a close one at the Footprint Center.
Suns 105, Pacers 103
When the game is over, join the Suns JAM Session Podcast as we discuss the game live on YouTube.