Suns’ style outpaces Indiana
PHOENIX — A crucial philosophical saw commandeered from the sweet science goes very much as such:
"Styles make fights."
More specifically, contrasting styles are known to make confrontations a lot more compelling.
It certainly helps if — after said styles are applied — the actual fight turns out competitive.
That didn’t exactly happen late Wednesday night at U.S. Airways Center during a showdown co-starring the Suns and the mighty Indiana Pacers. This matchup of two teams with disparate approaches was a 124-100 knockout for the home team.
"Well, yeah … I’d like it if they’d play like that all the time," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said when asked if he wouldn’t mind more performances like this from his confounding young players.
In the most basic interpretation of this difference in methodology, it should be known the Suns like to play fast, and the Pacers — whose successful implementation of their style has been accompanied by the NBA’s best record — prefer the basketball equivalent of a waltz.
"I don’t know if you can get them in that style," Hornacek, speaking before the game, said in regard to baiting the Pacers into more of a fox trot. "They’re very good at slowing things down.
Well, usually. Unable to control the Suns’ fancy footwork this time, they were blistered at deep-tissue levels they hadn’t felt all season.
In the league’s tempo rankings, Indiana (33-8) checks in at a yawning 22nd. The Suns (now 24-17), with Hornacek attempting to restore the franchise’s speed-kills reputation, are a frisky ninth.
With 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert and tough-guy David West lurking near the rim, the Pacers are a conservative 24th in 3-pointers attempted. The Suns, with Hornacek providing his blessing on more green lights than a funeral procession, are a plucky fifth.
Oh, and it figures the Suns lead the league in fast-break points, while the Pacers are 22nd in scoring via transition.
It should be noted that both teams are really good at defending the 3-point line; the Pacers lead the league in that department, while the Suns are third.
But all bets, statistic and analytic, were off in this one.
The Suns shot 68 percent (11 of 16) from 3-point range against a team giving up a stingy 32. Their overall shooting percentage was a gaudy 54.2.
"Their shot-making was off the charts," Pacers Coach Frank Vogel said.
Hornacek said it helps when the shot-taking is selective.
"It wasn’t like we were jacking them up," he said. "We took good shots. Against a good team, you have to take good shots. You can’t take crazy ones."
The Suns’ rout from behind the arc included 3 of 5 from Gerald Green, who along with Miles Plumlee was acquired by Phoenix in an offseason trade with Indy that also brought a first-round pick to the desert.
Green, who admittedly did little to justify the first year of a three-year deal he signed with the Pacers before last season, finished with a team-high 23 points. Plumlee, whose offensive production included a pair of alley-oop passes from Green, had 11 and seven rebounds.
When asked about the motivation of playing against a former team, Green — no slouch when it comes to changing teams — said, "This is my seventh team already, I’ve been down this road before."
Point guard Goran Dragic, the Pacers’ most severe matchup deficit against Phoenix, made 8 of 10 shots and scored 21 points in only 22:18. For the second consecutive game, the performance of even-quicker Suns guard Ish Smith enabled Dragic to sit the entire fourth quarter.
While the Pacers were failing to slow things down, they were hit with highs for points allowed any half (62) this season and for an entire game (the previous high was 118).
Indiana, which leads the league in defensive efficiency and points per game allowed, had permitted only one team, the Philadelphia 76ers, to score 30 or more points in two different quarters. The Suns did it three times Wednesday and with the bench cleared knocked in 28 in the fourth.
"That’s a good team over there," Pacers guard George Hill said of the Suns. "No matter where they are in the West, it’s a team you’ve got to respect."