Maybe the Phoenix Suns just have their number. The Pacers were looking to avenge a 124-100 blowout in Phoenix last week, but the Suns defied the odds, raced out to a big first half lead (despite Frank Vogel preaching better starts) and held on 102-94 to hand the Pacers just their second home loss of the season. They won't get another chance at revenge as the two teams have already played twice this season.
Goran Dragic was absolutely on fire, scorching the Pacers for 28, while he Morris twins had 15 and 16 (can't tell which one) and former Pacers Gerald Green had 15 and Leandro Barbosa 9 off the bench.
For the Pacers, Roy Hibbert had 26 points but missed a lot of gimmes (he still shot 8-17 from the field) and a couple of big free throws down the stretch that could have kept the Pacers in the game. Paul George (12 and 12) struggled mightily with his shot again, going 5-17 and missing all six three-point attempts. He was 1-6 against the Lakers from deep a couple of nights ago.
Lance Stephenson racked up his league-leading 4th triple-double with 14, 10 and 10, but had 5 turnovers, some of them completely unforced while doing too much dribbling. David West was in foul trouble early and finished with 18, but even he missed a lot of shots he normally makes. George Hill was efficient offensively, scoring 17 on 7-8 shooting, but his ordinarily stellar defense was nowhere to be found tonight as he was repeatedly burned by Dragic, especially on drives and the pick and roll.
The Pacers bench was pathetic tonight. Scola had just 3 points on 1-5 shooting, Granger didn't score, missing all three shots from the field. Likewise for Mahinmi, and CJ Watson had just 4 points and missed all three of his three-point attempts.
Anyway, a forgettable night. The Suns led by 17 at the end of the first quarter and maintained that lead at the half. The Pacers made a huge run in the third to get within 3 points heading in the fourth, but couldn't maintain the momentum in the end. The Suns, like the other night, were fearless and really went at the Pacers. At the other end, the Pacers missed a lot of shots, open and in traffic. Nights like these make you wonder whether their offense and bench are good enough to win a championship.
The Pacers are now 35-10 on the season having lost 3 of their last 5 games, but still hold on to a 3-game edge on the Miami Heat in the East. The Pacers will play Brooklyn on Sunday at home. They've beaten the Nets twice already this season but the Nets are a different team now and are 10-2 in 2014. The Pacers, by comparison, are 10-5 this year.
PS: By the way, Roy Hibbert was, as expected, named to the Eastern Conference All-Star ream as a reserve. Like for Paul George, who is a starter for the first time, it will be Hibbert's second All-Star appearance. Lance Stephenson missed out (expected), which I think is great as it keeps his value down a little bit and could help the Pacers keep him this offseason.