With just one stop remaining in their four-game road trip, the Suns are 3-0. That last stop is against the Pacers, who sport the league’s best record at 35-9.
It’s also the same Indiana team Phoenix beat last week by 24 points in front of a national television audience.
Yet Head Coach Jeff Hornacek and several players said after that game that they knew Indiana would be “ready” for the rematch that would occur just eight days later.
Will the Suns be equally prepared? Here are five things that will determine the answer.
Will Dragic Play?
Goran Dragic is “questionable” heading into tonight’s game after falling awkwardly on his left elbow in last night’s win at Milwaukee. He was driving to the rim late in the game when he was fouled at the peak of his jump and subsequently crashed to the floor.
Despite immediate and obvious swelling, Dragic scored the next 10 points for Phoenix to help put the game away. He was subbed out with roughly a minute left and immediately had a large ice pack and wrap applied.
Dragic’s status won’t be confirmed until gametime, but X-rays were negative and he has already played through 13 stitches above his left eye earlier this season. Chances are if he feels he can go, he’ll go.
The Suns have hit over 50 percent of their shots in four of the last six games, including 54.2 percent against Indiana last week.
Dragic has been the trend-setter in that span, shooting 55 percent on just over 13 shots per contest.
Improved execution is a big reason behind their improved marksmanship. Phoenix has logged four games of at least 23 assists over their last six after averaging just over 19 on the season.
Is Indiana’s Defense Slipping?
The Pacers were far and away the most stifling defensive team in the league for the first half of the season, holding opponents to just 88 points per game.
That mark has steadily increased, however, over the last eight games. Indiana has yielded more than 88 in every one of those contests, including over 100 to Phoenix, Sacramento and Denver.
Hornacek has repeatedly stressed his preference of attacking elite defenders rather than shying away from the challenge. Look for Phoenix to do so and test the Pacers’ faltering defense in the process.
Big or Small?
The Suns willed Indiana to their tempo last week, a big reason they won by as much as they did. Rookie center Alex Len, who could have matched up with Pacers big man Roy Hibbert, was never needed as the Suns routed the Pacers with small ball.
Phoenix will undoubtedly try to make this another track meet, but Hornacek knows now more than ever that Len is a viable option after the 7-foot-1 big man snagged a career-high 10 rebounds to go along with seven points and a block in 22 minutes last night.
Either way, the Suns have options against the best team in the league, and that’s a start.
We Meet Again Part 2
Former Pacers Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee made life miserable for Indiana last week. Green scored 23 points, including an impressive 8-of-10 showing at the free throw line. Plumlee was active inside despite Hibbert’s presence, finishing with 11 points, seven rebounds and a steal.
While Indiana is likely to be a different beast at home, Bankers Life Fieldhouse might offer a similar boost to Green and Plumlee, whose memories of the arena are mostly wishes for more on-court opportunities.