Locked in a hotly contested Western Conference playoff race, the
Phoenix Suns would love to take advantage of a lengthy homestand,
but they didn’t get that season-high, seven-game stretch off to a
A matchup with the struggling Indiana Pacers would seem to give
the Suns a prime opportunity to bounce back, but they’ve had
trouble containing the Pacers in recent meetings.
Phoenix will try to avoid a third straight loss to Indiana and
earn its 14th win in 18 games overall Saturday night.
The Suns (39-25) are in a dense cluster of seven teams within 5
1/2 games of one another in the West and will face two of those
clubs, Utah and Portland, to conclude its seven-game homestand.
That homestand got off to an inauspicious start Thursday night,
when the Suns lost to the Jazz 116-108 to fall 1 1/2 games behind
them in the conference. Phoenix led by 11 points entering the
fourth quarter but seemed to run out of steam in its fourth game in
five nights, getting outscored 41-22 over the final 12 minutes.
“I don’t know if fatigue set in,” said forward Amare
Stoudemire, who scored a game-high 30 points. “We played well most
of the night. We just didn’t play well defensively down the
stretch. We just have to key in defensively in the fourth quarter
to get some stops.”
It was a rare defensive lapse of late for the Suns, who have
held opponents to 99.1 points per game while winning seven of nine.
On the season, Phoenix has allowed 106.1 points per game.
The Suns’ defense figures to get tested by the Pacers, who have
averaged 115.4 points in their last five games in the series,
including 117.5 in back-to-back wins.
The Suns, though, still have the league’s most productive
offense, and it has continued to produce by topping 100 points in
eight straight games. Stoudemire, who leads the team with 22.0
points per game, has averaged 30.0 on 58.4 percent shooting over
the past four contests.
Stoudemire had a team-best 21 on Jan. 13 at Indiana, but the
Suns were outscored 70-46 in the second half of a 122-114 loss.
Danny Granger led the Pacers with 33 points, and Mike Dunleavy
added a season-high 30.
If recent history is any indication, Stoudemire and Granger
should play pivotal roles Saturday. Stoudemire’s 24.3-point average
against Indiana is his highest versus any opponent in his career,
and he’s scored 32.0 points per game in the last seven matchups,
including a 49-point outburst last season at Conseco
Granger has averaged 28.8 points in the last four meetings and
scored 37 in last season’s 113-110 win in Phoenix.
Granger also had a team-leading 32 points Friday night, but he
couldn’t help the Pacers (20-42) avoid their 17th loss in 23 games.
The 122-114 defeat in Denver was Indiana’s third straight on a
four-game western road trip.
Indiana, which clinched its fourth straight losing season with
Friday’s defeat, has lost five in a row on the road, where it’s
7-26 this season.
While they won in their previous trip to Phoenix, the Pacers are
3-10 there since the beginning of the 1995-96 season.