PHOENIX — The sluggish Phoenix Suns needed a win. They needed to tighten up their defense, get their fast break in gear and give their high-scoring backcourt room to operate.
Luckily, the perfect opponent was next on the schedule, allowing the Suns to emphatically check all the boxes.
Guard Goran Dragic had 22 of his season-high 34 points in the first half and the Suns put up 38 fast-break points, hit 12 3-pointers and continued their mastery of the Indiana Pacers with a 116-99 win Tuesday.
Guard Eric Bledsoe added 21 of his 27 points in the second half for the Suns, who snapped a two-game losing streak by sweeping the season series from the Pacers for the second straight year. Phoenix has won 15 of the last 19 meetings with Indiana, and this is the third time the Suns have won at least four in a row during that span.
“This was a must-win for us and we talked a lot about what we need to do to be successful and what it takes to be a good team,” said Dragic, pointing to a white board in the dressing room filled with written-out challenges from a post-practice meeting on Monday. “We had a small family meeting and just talking about what it takes for us to win.”
Dragic has been a symbol of the Suns’ sluggish start through 18 games but he found his groove Tuesday, hitting 11 of 15 shots from the field and matching his season high for points before halftime.
“The rim looked bigger and bigger every time I took a shot and it’s one of those nights when you know you’re going to make a lot of shots,” he said.
Dragic and Bledsoe outscored Indiana’s five starters by a 61-42 margin. The Suns put the game away with 12 straight points midway through the fourth quarter — six by Dragic, four by Bledsoe and a Markieff Morris jumper that gave the Suns an 18-point lead at 106-88 with 4:18 left.
Sunday’s home loss to the Orlando Magic brought Phoenix’s problems to a head, especially at US Airways Center where the Suns are a pedestrian 6-4.
“We’ve been struggling a little bit but this game was a little easier,” Bledsoe said. “Goran had it going early and everyone just helped him out. We haven’t played with the sense of urgency we need. Teams come in here and we’re not putting up a fight. That’s what we had to do today.”
Guard Gerald Green added 15 points for Phoenix and had nine 3-pointers in two games against the Pacers, who traded him to Phoenix along with center Miles Plumlee and a first-round pick for Luis Scola in the summer of 2013.
The Suns played without leading scorer Isaiah Thomas for a fourth straight game but the rest of the guards provided more than enough offense.
Guard C.J. Miles had 17 points off the bench to lead Indiana, which had forward David West and center Roy Hibbert available in the same game for the first time this season. Nonetheless, the starting unit struggled. Hibbert finished with 15 points and nine rebounds and West had 10 points.
“It’s a tough matchup,” Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. “They have incredible speed and if you don’t take care of the basketball, they’ll expose you for 38 fast-break points. Their starters outplayed our starters in the first half and the second half.”
Dragic made eight of 10 shots and added three steals in the first half, but the Suns still trailed 56-54 at intermission.
Bledsoe had 10 points in the third quarter when Phoenix took the lead for good, and the Suns put the game away with a 12-0 run midway through the final quarter with Dragic and Bledsoe combining for 10 points.
“They got out defensively, denied us and got (13 steals),” Miles said. “They are already powerful offensively and we gave them extra possessions and extra chances to score.”
Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek questioned the effort of his team after back-to-back losses and was happy with the way his team, and especially his leaders, responded.
“It was a big talk for us about having that enthusiasm and having that energy and the guys took it to heart,” he said. “We talked about how we think they can play and how good we can be if we do it. Guys got in the flow tonight and were aggressive.”
NOTES: Suns G Isaiah Thomas missed his fourth straight game with a right ankle bruise that isn’t getting any better. He will have an MRI on Wednesday. … Indiana coach Frank Vogel said he isn’t surprised with the success G Gerald Green and C Miles Plumlee have had since the Pacers traded them to Phoenix for F Luis Scola. “No regrets, but we totally felt like they were going to be this productive,” Vogel said. “We were very high on those guys. We were very high on Luis Scola as well. The Suns were going for their second straight season sweep and had won 14 of the last 18 meetings. … F David West and C Roy Hibbert played in the same game for the first time this season. West missed the first 14 games with a sprained ankle and Hibbert missed the last four with the same problem. … Jeff Hornacek was 58-42 in his first 100 games as Suns coach.
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