How can Pacers stop their slide? Simple: Stop somebody
Coach Frank Vogel is embarrassed that his normally defensive-minded Indiana Pacers have become a collective turnstile during their losing streak.
Though it could be missing two of its top defenders, Indiana hopes to tighten things up against one of the NBA’s lowest-scoring teams over the past month.
In their second meeting in the past week, the visiting Pacers try to avoid their first four-game losing streak in 10 months Tuesday night when they go after only their second season sweep of the Phoenix Suns over the last 12 years.
Since allowing an average of 93.9 points in regulation over its previous 16 games, Indiana (22-19) has given up 116.7 during a three-game slide.
Vogel had enough after his club allowed 45 fourth-quarter points in Sunday’s 129-126 loss to Denver to open this four-game trip. The Pacers have been outrebounded 96-68 in the past two games and allowed 16 offensive boards per game in the past four.
"When this team decides to start defending again, then we will start winning again," he insisted. "Our defense was an embarrassment. We have to toughen up, we have to start hitting people on the glass, we have to be first to the rebound and we have to stop giving teams second-chance shots."
It hasn’t helped that Paul George is dealing with a calf injury, Ian Mahinmi is day-to-day with a sore heel and George Hill isn’t traveling for personal reasons.
Myles Turner made the most of his opportunity by scoring a season-high 25 points on 11-of-13 shooting, while fellow rookie reserve Joe Young had a season-high 15.
The Pacers hope to avoid their longest skid since a six-game slide from March 14-23. They haven’t let four straight foes reach 100 points since March 21-26, though Phoenix ranks near the bottom of the league with 96.8 per game since Dec. 20.
The Suns shot just 40.4 percent but outworked Indiana 45-41 on the glass — including 16 offensive boards — in a 116-97 road loss last Tuesday. Devin Booker and Mirza Teletovic had 19 points apiece and Markieff Morris added 16.
The Pacers shot 51.9 percent and 10 for 24 from 3-point range against Phoenix (13-29), which easily allows the NBA’s highest field-goal percentage (47.6). The Suns also have allowed 113.4 points per game over the past seven.
"These guys can’t call themselves basketball players until you go out there and you try to stop somebody and get in front of somebody and take a charge or do something," coach Jeff Hornacek said.
Brandon Knight, who did not play in last week’s contest due to a bout with food poisoning, finished with 20 points and Morris scored 17 on Sunday when Phoenix suffered its fourth straight defeat and 13th in 14 games, 117-87 at Minnesota.
Knight has averaged 24.2 points over his last five matchups with Indiana.
The Suns had won four in a row and 15 of the previous 19 meetings before last week’s defeat. They’ve won the past two at home by a combined 41 points.
Phoenix trailed by four last week before the Pacers outscored them 36-21 in the fourth quarter. George finished with 21 points, Hill had 20 and C.J. Miles added 19.
The Suns’ Alex Len could return after missing three games with a sprained hand.