Suns hope strong play against Pacers continues
Although they've been one of the league's top defensive clubs over the past couple seasons, the Indiana Pacers have had a difficult time containing the Phoenix Suns' electrifying guard play.
That might not be as much of a concern with only one high-scoring guard currently healthy in Phoenix.
In their first home game in 10 days, the Pacers seek their 13th win in their past 16 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Tuesday night by snapping a four-game losing streak against the struggling Suns.
Indiana ranked second in the NBA in defensive scoring in 2013-14 and fourth last season, but scuffled in that area while getting swept by Phoenix in each of those seasons. The Suns have scored 112 per game and hit 48.3 percent from 3-point range while winning those meetings by an average of 18 points.
After featuring Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas the past two seasons, Phoenix had a similarly prolific backcourt with Bledsoe and Brandon Knight both averaging around 20 points this season. However, they lost Bledsoe to season-ending knee surgery after he suffered a torn meniscus on Dec. 26.
Knight has averaged 23 points over his last four games after finishing with 26 in Friday's 103-95 home loss to Miami. He's also put up 24.2 per game in his past five versus Indiana dating to his time with Milwaukee.
Rookie guard Devin Booker has provided a spark by averaging 16 points in his last four games.
Phoenix, though, has averaged 97.1 points during a 1-10 stretch after scoring 104.8 over its first 28.
"To beat these teams, you have to consistently make plays - and that's not just scoring the ball or not turning it over," coach Jeff Hornacek said after his team fell to 13-26.
Indiana ranks sixth with 98.3 points allowed per game this season and has won 12 in a row at home when holding opponents under 103. It's limited opponents to 88.4 in regulation over its last five.
The Pacers (21-16) have held opponents to 38.9 percent shooting in that 3-2 stretch but had to settle for a split of their four-game road swing following a 107-103 overtime loss at Houston on Sunday.
"We have to figure out how to close out these games," coach Frank Vogel told the team's official website after his team's second overtime loss on the trip. "There is no consolation prize for losing close games."
Paul George had a team-high 20 points and keyed the defensive effort with seven steals, six rebounds and two blocked shots. He scored 14 in the third quarter but Indiana couldn't hold a 12-point lead in the fourth.
The star forward, who missed both games in last season's series with Phoenix, looks to break out of a shooting slump after going 5 for 23 (21.7 percent) from 3-point range in his last three games.
"We didn't stick with what was working," George said Sunday. "It's the same story every game for us."
Indiana will try to take care of the basketball after committing 43 total turnovers over its last two games. The Pacers should have a better offensive showing against the Suns, who are surrendering a league-high 47.5 field-goal percentage and rank near the bottom with 106.1 points allowed per game.
Phoenix's P.J. Tucker is probable with a quad contusion and Ronnie Price is questionable with a toe injury.