Suns looking to tighten up defense vs. Pacers

INDIANAPOLIS — The Suns hit the halfway point in a stretch of six consecutive road games on Friday, taking on an Indiana Pacers team that is 6-1 on its home court.

The Suns, meanwhile, are 1-6 on the road through the early portion of the season and are trying to snap a three-game losing streak. They have given up 120 points or more in all of the losses — a first for the team since 1988.

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The Suns (3-9) are averaging 108 points per game, good enough for fifth in the NBA, but they're giving up more points than any team in the league.

“We're 3-9,” Suns guard Brandon Knight said. “Our goal was to be a playoff team, so we have a lot of major issues.”

Knight scored a season-high 32 points in the losing effort against Denver on Wednesday. He's been getting more accustomed to his role off the Suns' bench.

“It's not an easy transition,” Knight said of being a sixth man. “Just trying to figure out a routine. That's the biggest thing. You've had a routine over the past five, six years. Just trying to figure out how to be successful within the time you're playing and how to pace yourself because you can play long spurts as a bench guy.”

Both teams are in the midst of a critical early season stretch. The Pacers have been playing a lot of home games lately, and that will continue with four of their next five games in Indianapolis.

The next six games for the Suns will be against the Pacers, Sixers, Wizards, Magic, Timberwolves, and Magic. Those teams have a combined 22-44 record, and the Suns will need to take advantage.

 

The Pacers (6-6) are coming off consecutive wins over the Orlando Magic on Monday and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday. Although the winning streak i's a modest two games, it's their longest of the season.

“We're slowly building day by day,” said Pacers center Myles Turner. “We've got to keep the ball rolling.”

Coach Nate McMillan is seeing the improvement on the defensive end.

“We've gone back to focusing on the basics,” McMillan said. “We were switching a lot, but that was making us too soft. We've gone back to working hard and just playing traditional defense.”

The biggest challenge the Suns present comes in the backcourt. Devin Booker is averaging 20.5 points per game, Eric Bledsoe is at 17.5 and Knight is at 12.8.

“They've got some good guards,” said Pacers point guard Jeff Teague. “We have to make sure we match their intensity.”

The Pacers won both games against the Suns last season, but Phoenix has won eight of their previous 11 trips to Indiana.

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