- Benjamin Gerstel
Pacers were defeated by the Suns 113-103
Indiana, without Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon, and Caris LeVert, headed into Phoenix for a tough matchup, against the best team in the NBA. Deandre Ayton was still out for Phoenix, as well as Jalen Smith and Ish Wainright. Despite a poor game, from Devin Booker’s standards, and their big man’s absence, Phoenix was able to pull away in the second half.
Led by rookie sensation Chris Duarte, Indiana held their own in the first half. Other players were also able to step up, such as Goga Bitadze, Jeremy Lamb, and Lance Stephenson. It’s tough for any rookie to follow up a 27-point outing like his the night before, but Duarte led the Pacers in scoring again tonight. He had 17 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists. The Oregon product has an innate ability with his off-hand usage, which allows him to create space for himself offensively. He displayed that tonight, especially during his shot clock-beating three, with four minutes left in the second.
Unfortunately, by this time in the game, Bismack Biyombo and Chris Paul had completely taken over. Bismack Biyombo had his best game of the season, with 21 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists. He has a case for being the best pickup in the NBA all season. While “No Bizzy” dominated down low, Paul was the nucleus of the offense. Tonight, he truly looked like prime New Orleans Chris Paul, as he quarterbacked the offense. His floater game was utilized more frequently than usual, he was extremely efficient (7-7 through three quarters), and some of the dribble moves he pulled were out of this world, like the one with 9:50 left in the third. He also had a handful of draw-dropping passes throughout the night. While Mikal Bridges had a team-high 23 points, and JaVale McGee also had 13 and 10, the game wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for Phoenix.
It was an easy win for them after a tough road trip, but they lost Cameron Payne and Jae Crowder to wrist injuries. Payne resumed play for a short while, but both eventually headed into the locker room, for the remainder of the night. While many positives came out of tonight’s win, it’s tough to see guys have setbacks after working so hard to come back. Especially in Jae Crowder’s case. Despite these injuries, Phoenix moved the ball much better (15 more assists), and they won the battle in the paint, 66-44. It was a solid win considering they not only had Ayton out, but Devin Booker didn't have his usual 35 either.
Phoenix finished the game, up 113-103. They continue to lead the NBA, but now deal with injuries to Payne, Crowder, and Ayton, who have all played important roles so far this season. Phoenix resumes their homestand against a tough Utah team, tomorrow night at 9:00pm EST. Indiana heads to New Orleans, for an 8:00pm clash against the 11th seeded Pelicans.