Pacers building momentum as they entertain high-scoring Suns

Jeff Teague and the Pacers are 6-6 after beating the Cavs on Wednesday.
Trevor Ruszkowski/Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Spor

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Pacers will look to keep their strong week going as they host the Phoenix Suns on Friday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The Pacers (6-6) have won consecutive games for the first time this season, defeating the Orlando Magic on Monday and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday. Despite the .500 overall record, the Pacers are 6-1 on their home court.

“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.

Turner added: “To be the team we want to be, and to go where we want to go, we've got to be a good defensive team.”

The Pacers and Suns have both been much better on the offensive end compared with the defensive end overall this year. It could make for a high-scoring game.

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

Those guards include Devin Booker (20.5 points per game), Eric Bledsoe (17.5) and Brandon Knight (12.8).

The Suns (3-9) have lost three straight games. They're averaging 108 points per game, good for fifth in the NBA. However, they're also fifth-worst in the NBA in defensive efficiency (107 points allowed per 100 possessions).

Phoenix has scored over 100 points in every game except the opener but still has nine losses to show for it. That will happen when you give up the most points per game in the NBA, as the Suns have so far this season.

They've given up 120 points or more in three consecutive games for the first time since 1988.

“We're 3-9,” Suns guard Brandon Knight told “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.

For the first time in several weeks, Rodney Stuckey is listed as questionable for the Pacers. He will be returning soon from a hamstring injury.

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