What: Phoenix Suns (30-27) at Indiana Pacers (14-39)
When: 5:00 p.m. AZ Time
Where: Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
Watch: Bally Sports AZ
Listen: 98.7 FM
DraftKings Betting Lines: Suns (-2.5), over/under 230.5
The Phoenix Suns face the Indiana Pacers at 5 p.m. MT on the second night of a back-to-back at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. The game will be televised by Bally Sports AZ.
The Suns are coming off a 116-107 loss to the Atlanta Hawks Thursday night. It was their first game without usual starting forwards Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson, who were traded to the Brooklyn Nets along with estranged forward Jae Crowder, four unprotected first-round picks and a pick swap for superstar forward Kevin Durant and forward TJ Warren, who played for Phoenix from 2014-15 to 2018-19.
You can imagine their energy was not top-notch against the Hawks. The team was very “emotional” as Bridges and Johnson said their goodbyes before leaving the team for good and flying to Brooklyn. Center Deandre Ayton, who’s played his whole career with Bridges and the last four with Johnson, said told the Republic’s Duane Rankin he cried a lot, and word is that Ayton wasn’t the only one.
Phoenix, who were also playing without Devin Booker (injury management on the first night of a back to back) was led in scoring Thursday night by backup guard Josh Okogie, who had 25 points on 9-of-17 shooting with four rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block. Starting center Deandre Ayton had 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting but also only had two rebounds.
Durant is not yet available for the Suns since he is recovering from an MCL sprain. Durant told reporters in Brooklyn late last month he wanted to target a return after the All-Star break, which will take place next weekend.
Suns coach Monty Williams said he had no timetable for Durant’s debut.
This will be the second time the Suns and Pacers face each other this season. Phoenix won the first meeting at home without starting point guard Chris Paul, starting shooting guard Devin Booker and Ayton, 112-107.
Indiana was without its top scorer, point guard Tyrese Haliburton (19.8 points and 10.3 assists per game), but the Suns got great contributions from Okogie (24 points), Bridges (22 points) and usual backup guard Damion Lee (16 points).
The Pacers are currently No. 12 in the Eastern Conference with a 25-31 record. They are coached by Rick Carlisle, who led the Dallas Mavericks to a championship in 2011.
Here are some of the notable statistics for each team provided by TeamRankings.
- Points per game: Phoenix (No. 21, 112.6), Indiana (No. 13, 114.6)
- Assists per game: Phoenix (No. 4, 27.1), Indiana (No. 6, 26.4)
- Rebounds per game: Phoenix (No. 9, 52.5), Indiana (No. 18, 50.9)
- Average scoring margin: Phoenix (No. 11, +1.2), Detroit (No. 25, -2.3)
- Offensive efficiency: Phoenix (No. 19), Detroit (No. 24)
- Team shooting percentage: Phoenix (No. 22, 46.3), Indiana (No. 24, 45.9)
- Effective field goal percentage: Phoenix (No. 22, 53.3), Indiana (No. 20, 53.6)
- 3-point percentage: Phoenix (No. 5, 38.1), Indiana (No. 14, 36.3)
- 2-point percentage: Phoenix (No. 30, 51.0), Indiana (No. 24, 53.0)
- Blocks per game: Phoenix (No. 8, 5.1), Indiana (No. 3, 5.9)
- Steals per game: Phoenix (No. 13, 7.1), Indiana (No. 9, 7.9)
- Turnovers per game: Phoenix (No. 15, 14.1), Indiana (No. 26, 15.3)
- Opponent points per game: Phoenix (No. 6, 111.4), Indiana (No. 23, 116.9)
- Opponent shooting percentage: Phoenix (No. 8, 46.8), Indiana (No. 17, 47.4)
- Opponent effective field-goal percentage: Phoenix (No. 8, 53.4), Indiana (No. 18, 54.5)
- Defensive efficiency: Phoenix (No. 8), Detroit (No. 21)
- Opponent 3-point percentage: Phoenix (No. 18, 36.1), Indiana (No. 28, 37.1)
- Opponent 2-point percentage: Phoenix (No. 7, 53.0), Indiana (No. 11, 53.7)
- Opponent total rebounds per game: Phoenix (No. 15, 51.1), Indiana (No. 28, 53.8)
Likely Starting Lineups
- PG Chris Paul
- G Devin Booker
- F Torrey Craig
- C Jock Landale
- C Deandre Ayton
- G Tyrese Haliburton
- G Buddy Hield
- G Andrew Nembhard
- F Aaron Nesmith
- C Myles Turner
- G Devin Booker (groin injury management) is expected to play
- F Kevin Durant LET’S GO (traded Thursday but has MCL sprain) is OUT
- F T.J. Warren (traded to the Suns Thursday) is TBD
- F Darius Bazley (traded to the Suns Thursday) is TBD
- G Cameron Payne (right foot sprain) is OUT
- G Landry Shamet (foot) is OUT
- F Jordan Nwora (traded Thursday) is ?
Courtesy of lockervision.nba.com
What to Watch For
Back-to-backs are always challenging. The Suns, who have been depleted throughout this season, are 3-4 on the second night of back-to-backs, and even though Indiana is not currently a playoff team, it will present challenges with its playmaking and guard play.
Haliburton stands at 6-foot-5 and has good length, which is a challenge Phoenix did not face earlier this season. Haliburton used to play for the Suns’ divisional rival, the Sacramento Kings, so they are well aware of what he can contribute on both ends.
Indiana also has star rookie Bennedict Mathurin, who is putting forth a strong case for Rookie of the Year with averages of 17.1 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. He is an athletic guard who is capable of stretching the floor (32.1 percent from 3-point range this season) so the Suns will have to be able to lock down on him.
Ayton did not play against the Pacers last time, so expect the Suns to be able to better counter their starting center, Myles Turner. Turner is averaging career-bests of 17.7 points and 8.1 rebounds this season. He has also been a very capable shot-blocker during his time in the NBA and has averaged 2.4 blocks per contest.
Carlisle is a great schematical coach who has known to take advantage of personnel weaknesses in other teams. His Dallas team put a great defensive gameplan against LeBron James during the 2011 NBA Finals.
So for basketball heads, keep an eye on how Williams and Carlisle go against each other from a coaching standpoint.
The Suns and Pacers have played 96 times dating back to the 1976-77 season, when Indiana was founded. Phoenix has won five of the last six games after Indiana won the previous six.
Keys to a Suns Win
The Suns are in their second night of a back-to-back on the road. It will also be their final game of a five-contest road trip.
Phoenix defeated the Pacers, 112-107, at home Jan. 21. Bridges had 22 points in that game to lead the Suns, who were without Paul, Booker and Ayton. Mathurin had 23 points to lead the Pacers.
The Suns will be depleted again Friday night until Durant arrives, when they should be especially explosive offensively with him, Paul, Booker and Ayton in the same lineup. Until then, Phoenix fans will have to momentarily get used to the Suns as they’ve been throughout the season: down, but not out due to their competitive effort and surprising level of defensive consistency considering their injuries.
Phoenix will need big contributions again from Okogie and Lee to push the envelope for a victory. If the Suns can lock down Indiana’s guards somewhat and win the rebounding battle (Ayton will need to be much better after he had just two boards last night), they might find a chance to win.
Can we get to the Durant era yet? Fans will hold their breaths until that comes, but the Suns have to try to maximize their window to win games before the All-Star break.
Indiana is well-coached by Rick Carlisle and Phoenix will be heavily depleted without two usual starters, Bridges and Johnson. The Suns will be a championship contender once Durant is on the court. But for now, Phoenix is in a similar position to earlier in the season, when it lost 12 of 14 games.
It just does not have enough to be competitive consistently. The Pacers will win a close game tonight.
Pacers 107, Suns 99
When the game is over, join the Suns JAM Session Podcast as we discuss the game live on YouTube.