Life goes on even if the All-Star game doesn’t come calling, and the Phoenix Suns enjoyed the fire it breathed into Goran Dragic, who led his team to a very impressive 102-94 road victory over the Indiana Pacers.
Phoenix and Memphis are the only two teams in the NBA with a .500 record or better and no one to represent them in the All-Star game, but it’s not going to stop them from making the playoffs if they keep on playing like this.
There’s something about the Suns that the Pacers struggle with – the up-tempo offense right from the start, the ability to move the ball quickly and to take out Roy Hibbert out of his spot, which is pretty much the basis to their success on defense. They have the best scoring defense in the NBA, but the Suns are scoring 24 points above Indiana’s defensive average thanks to their outside shooting (47.1%) and their hot starts. In four halves against the Pacers this season, the Suns have scored 62 points or more in three of them.
Dragic finished with 28 points and 7 assists, as the tired looking Pacers just couldn’t catch up with him. Dragic slicing through the defense time and time again enabled Gerald Green and the Morris twins to have a strong performance, highlighting just how weak the Pacers’ bench can be at times.
Despite having Danny Granger who is practically like a new signing and Luis Scola coming from the bench, the Pacers remain the team we’ve seen in the last couple of years, at least in principle: Almost completely reliant on their starting five to carry them offensively and defensively. On some nights, with Paul George looking very far from the MVP some thought he might be at the beginning of the season, it takes more than just five guys to win.
So while Phoenix got 31 points from the Morris brothers and nine more from Leonardo Barbosa who enjoyed the speedy style, the Pacers got a total of 7 points from their bench players and only 3 from Granger @ Scola, as Granger scored 0 points on 0-of-3 from the field. Lance Stephenson pulled off his fourth triple-double of the season, the second player in franchise history with 4 TDs in one season, but he also turned the ball over 5 times, and along with his impressive all-around efforts come a lot of mistakes in his offensive decisions that don’t always show up on the stat sheets.
Roy Hibbert dominated on the offensive side with 26 points, but it’s not that the Pacers need him for. The Suns got him out of the paint and cleared the path for Dragic to drive inside and kick it out to open shooters. George Hill was almost perfect from the field with 17 points on 7-of-8 from the field, but his defense needed to do a lot better against such a dangerous point guard.
This was only the second time the Pacers lost at home this season, which really shouldn’t be too much of a cause for concern, but the Suns not only improved their position in the tight Western playoff race, but also showed some sort of prototype to teams in their two wins over the Eastern leaders in how to make life hard for the Pacers.