Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 10:30 PM ET at US Airways Center
Game Preview: Pacers (33-7) at Suns (23-17)
Scott Agness | January 20, 2014
The next stop on the Pacers’ five-game road trip takes them to Phoenix, Arizona, home to the team with the most surprising season in the NBA to this point. Indiana’s success was expected, but with what the Suns have done, ESPN opted last month to pick up the broadcast of this game.
Since finishing 23-59 and at the bottom of the Pacific Division last season, the Suns have completed a top-to-bottom makeover. First, management went and hired Ryan McDonough as its new general manager. He previously spent 10 years with the Boston Celtics, most recently as Danny Ainge’s right-hand man. McDonough, who’s well-respected throughout the league, brought in first-year head coach Jeff Hornacek, who played with the team from 1986-92. They would be in this together.
Early on, McDonough has done a great job of stockpiling draft picks — which could be as many as four first-round picks this June. He received one, along with Emeka Okafor, in a deal with the Washington Wizards. Then he received another first-round pick from the Pacers, plus Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee for Luis Scola. When Pacers team president Larry Bird was told that Scola was available, he wanted him.
Indiana’s trade with Phoenix has turned out to be one of the rare deals that has helped both sides. Scola has provided the Pacers with his IQ, veteran leadership, savvy play and always-reliable mid-range jumper. Plumlee, who’s only in his second season, has started every game after seeing time in just 14 games last season. He’s averaging almost 10 points and nine rebounds per game. Green is the Suns’ third-leading scorer at 13.4 points per game, and he’s shooting 43.4 percent beyond the arc.
In addition to drafting 7-footer Alex Len at No. 5 and then trading up for Archie Goodwin at 29, the Suns acquired Eric Bledsoe, who’s averaging 18 points, from the Los Angeles Clippers. Point guard Goran Dragic is team’s top scorer and assist man.
The Pacers swept the regular season series with the Suns last season. Being in opposite conferences, they play just twice per season. It just so happened that this year, both of those meetings are eight days apart. Plumlee and Green return to the Fieldhouse next Thursday, Jan. 30, which is also the team’s first game back at home.
Suns: Leandro Barbosa (day-to-day, right shoulder sprain), Emeka Okafor (out, herniated disc), Eric Bledsoe (out, right knee arthroscopy)
- The Pacers won both meetings last season by six and eight points, respectively.
- The Suns brought back guard Leandro Barbosa, who played his first seven seasons (2003-10) in Phoenix and a short 22-game stint in Indiana. He’s currently on his second 10-day contract.
- Before the season, the Suns picked up the team option on Miles Plumlee’s third year.
March 30: Missed free throws allowed the Suns to hang around, but the Pacers finished them off in the final three minutes to earn their fourth consecutive victory, 112-104. Ex-Pacers forward Jermaine O’Neal drew the Suns within one with 3:10 left on a three-point play, but they’d miss five of their final six shots and the Pacers tallied 10 of the game’s final 13 points.
All five Indiana starters finished in double figures, with Paul George, whose family was in attendance, scoring 25. Roy Hibbert had 20 & 7 and Lance Stephenson added 16. Goran Dragic finished with 21 points and nine assists for the Suns. After missing nine foul shots in the first half, the Pacers made 21-of-24 in the final two quarters.
Broadcast Information | Find Local Listings »
TV: FOX Sports Indiana – Chris Denari (play-by-play), Quinn Buckner (analyst), Brooke Olzendam (sideline reporter/host)
ESPN - Dave Pasch (play-by-play), Hubie Brown (analyst), J.A. Adande (sideline reporter)
Radio: FM 107.5/AM 1070 The Fan, Pacers Radio Network – Mark Boyle (play-by-play), Michael Grady (studio host)