Suns take aim against Pacers’ league-leading defense
The Indiana Pacers slowed down one of the NBA’s most prolific 3-point shooting teams their last time out and now face another that likes to fire from long range.
The Phoenix Suns are one of the league’s highest-scoring teams at home and will get a major test Wednesday night when they try to end the Pacers’ five-game win streak.
Indiana (33-7) opened a five-game trip with Monday’s 102-94 victory over a Golden State team among the NBA’s best in 3-point shooting at 38.6 percent. The Warriors made 10 of 30 (33.3 percent) against the Pacers, shot 40.7 percent overall — their fourth-worst mark of the season — and were held below 95 points for the first time in 2014.
"We have the best record in the league, we’ve been getting everybody’s best shots and teams have measured themselves against us, particularly our defense," Indiana forward David West said.
The Pacers lead the NBA in defensive field-goal percentage (40.8) and opponents’ 3-point percentage (32.1).
Their perimeter defense figures to be key Wednesday because Phoenix (23-17) averages 26.0 3-point attempts for one of the NBA’s highest marks. The Suns shoot 36.2 percent on 3s.
That 3-point percentage improves to 38.5 at home, where Phoenix averages 108.5 points to rank third in the league. The Suns are averaging 115.0 points in going 2-1 on a five-game homestand, winning 117-103 over Denver on Sunday.
Channing Frye made five 3-pointers and scored a season-high 30 points for Phoenix, which never trailed and shot 50.5 percent overall.
"He makes it very difficult on teams, playing the four spot, when he’s making those shots," coach Jeff Hornacek said of Frye, who hit at least five 3s for the fourth time in nine games.
The Pacers also have someone who presents major matchup problems in Paul George, who had 23 points while also chasing around the Warriors’ perimeter shooters Monday. George is averaging 28.8 points on 54.2 percent shooting over his last four games.
"I felt good coming off screens, dribbling the ball and hitting some shots," George said. "It’s just tough running around with those guys and still having legs to make shots at the end. That’s really what the toughness was."
Indiana matched a season high with 17 offensive rebounds for a season-best 21 second-chance points. The Pacers are second in the NBA in rebound margin at plus-4.5.
Roy Hibbert had 14 points and 13 rebounds Monday. The 7-foot-2 center also has a major impact on defense, helping Indiana limit opponents to an NBA-best 51.8 percent on shots from less than five feet from the basket entering play Tuesday.
This is the first game between these teams since the July 27 trade that brought Miles Plumlee and Gerald Green to Phoenix in exchange for Luis Scola.
Plumlee was a 2012 first-round pick by the Pacers who has started every game this season for the Suns while Green played 60 games for Indiana in 2012-13 and also had a solid first-round playoff series against Atlanta. Scola was the Suns’ second-leading scorer with 12.8 points per game in 2012-13 – his only season with the club.
Indiana swept both meetings last season to end a four-game slide in the series. George averaged 20.0 points and Hibbert totaled 28 points and 21 boards.