Ending the season’s first half against the NBA’s top team, the Suns authored a statement win with exclamation points Wednesday night when they made a league-leading defense look pedestrian in a 124-100 victory at US Airways Center.
In half of a season, the Suns (24-17) are one victory off last season’s win total and showed how by scoring more against Indiana (33-8) than any team has this season. It tied Indiana’s most lopsided loss to Oklahoma City.
With every starter and sixth man Markieff Morris (20 points) scoring in double digits, the Suns shot 54.2 percent against a Pacers team that came in allowing 40.8 percent shooting and 88.3 points per game. It was not only Phoenix’s best effort since Eric Bledsoe’s knee injury but arguably their season’s best performance, considering Indiana had won 13 of its previous 15 games.
“If we could figure out a way to bottle this game for us, we’ll take it,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said of having a season scoring high against the No. 1 defense.
Indiana led 23-20 with 18 points in the paint but once the Suns got a grip on interior defense, their offense took off on the lead of former Pacers swingman Gerald Green.
Green had 18 of his 23 points in the first half as the Suns imposed their will, running out to 28 fastbreak points and hitting 11 of 16 3-pointers while supporting it with turnover-invoking defense that also kept Indiana to 45.7 percent shooting after the hot 23-20 start. Green was joined by the other ex-Pacer, center Miles Plumlee, who busted out of a three-game slump with 11 points and 7 rebounds against his former mentor, Roy Hibbert, who battled foul trouble and finished with six points and four rebounds.
“It is not so much that is the Pacers but that they are such a good team,” Plumlee said. “The fact that we got this win, I think is a big game for us as a team.”
Green did a lot of his damage by getting to the line for 10 free throws but he was active in all respects, grabbing six rebounds and taking a charge with no turnovers.
“For us, Gerald is always a key,” Hornacek said. “When he plays well and in control, we seem to have a pretty good game. He lends that weapon of shooting 3s. He’s able to get turnaround jump shots from the 14-, 15-foot range over pretty much any guy in the league with his athletic ability. When he’s playing like that, it gives us another option and we don’t have to rely on long jumpers.”
The Suns had gone 4-6 since losing Bledsoe to eventual knee surgery and needed a confidence builder like Wednesday night’s win because they probably will be without him for at least another month.
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