Suns Strokes: Pacers cruise as Phoenix struggles without Warren
PHOENIX — One step forward, two steps back. Such is life right now for the Phoenix Suns.
While Phoenix’s Josh Jackson and Isaiah Canaan returned from injury, starting forward T.J. Warren joined Marquese Chriss in street clothes on Sunday. Their absences were definitely felt.
The Suns dropped their second straight and fourth in five games overall, losing to the Indiana Pacers, 120-97, in front of an announced crowd of 17,091 at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
The game was close early — like real early, within the first six minutes — and the Suns actually had a 6-5 and then a 7-5 lead totaling 69 seconds before a Victor Oladipo 3-pointer keyed an 18-4 Pacers run. From there, the Suns stared at a double-digit deficit for most of the night.
They trailed by as many as 33 points.
Warren was ruled out about an hour before tip-off because of low back soreness, and Chriss missed his second straight game due to a right hip strain.
Both Jackson (21 points, setting a new career-high) and Canaan (13) reached double figures in scoring. Devin Booker added 15 points.
The Suns (16-28) didn’t shoot the ball well, missing 50 of their 85 field goal attempts, including going 9-of-37 from beyond the arc.
The Pacers (23-20) didn’t have that problem. They shot 54.5 percent from the field and made 11-of-23 3-pointers.
Oladipo finished with 17 points, one of seven Pacer players in double figures. Indiana point guard Darren Collison led the way with 19 as the Pacers have won four of five since a five-game losing streak.
This was their third straight win in Phoenix.
Making his 15th start of the season, Jackson scored 10 of the Suns’ first 11 points, hitting 4-of-5 field goal attempts, including one 3-pointer. He also recorded an and-1, getting fouled on a fastbreak layup. The free throw gave the Suns their first lead of the game, 6-5, at the 10:00 mark. Jackson also had one rebound in his six minutes of action in the first quarter.
A pair of 3-pointers in the last two minutes gave Troy Daniels eight second-quarter points. He also made a 17-foot jump shot earlier in the period. Daniels finished with 13 points, hitting three 3s. He extended his streak of games with a 3-pointer off the bench to 24 straight games dating back to Nov. 26. It’s the second-longest streak in Suns history.
It happened at the 8:48 mark of the fourth quarter. Tyson Chandler grabbed his 11th rebound to become the 40th player in NBA history to reach 10,000 career rebounds. He joins Charles Barkley (Feb. 19, 1996) as the only players to grab No. 10,000 in a Suns uniform. The Suns acknowledged the mark with a video montage during the next in-game timeout.
Aside from Jackson, no one on the Suns could buy a basket in the first quarter. Those not named Jackson shot a combined 2-of-20 and committed three of the team’s four turnovers. The Pacers, meanwhile, seemingly could not miss. They closed the period on a 17-5 run, including a stretch of 10 straight points. Oladipo led all scorers with 11 points, hitting a pair of 3s.
So the Suns made 10-of-17 shot attempts (58.8 percent) in the second quarter yet were still outscored by six and trailed by 20, 64-44, at halftime. The reason: Turnovers. The Suns committed seven turnovers, which the Pacers converted into 14 points. Overall, they turned the ball over 11 times (Dragan Bender had three) in the first half, leading to 16 points by the visitors.
It was just not Bender’s night. In addition to the three turnovers, he missed all seven of his shot attempts, six of which were 3-point attempts, and finished with no points. Bender, who did grab five rebounds, had scored in double figures in each of his last two games, only the second time in his career he has scored 10-plus points in consecutive games.
STAT OF THE GAME
21: The Pacers scored 21 points off 13 Suns turnovers, while the Suns scored just six points off six Pacers turnovers; the Pacers’ six turnovers were their season-low.
HE SAID IT
“They were just better than us,” interim head coach Jay Triano said. “A step faster, quicker to the basketball, better execution. They were a step ahead of us all night. Everything, both ends of the floor.”
– The Suns recorded 16 points in the first quarter, their second-lowest output in a first quarter this season (15).
– Booker was hit with a technical foul in the third quarter, his sixth, which is tied with Warren for the team lead.
– Chandler finished with a game-high 14 rebounds, his seventh consecutive game grabbing at least 10 boards.
– Warren missed his first game due to injury this season. He was out sick for a game at San Antonio on Jan. 5.
– Alex Len had 12 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, recording his seventh double-double of the season.
– Greg Monroe (0 points) made an appearance, checking into the game at the 9:37 mark or the second quarter.
– Davon Reed (0 points) made his NBA debut, checking into the game at the 4:50 mark of the fourth quarter.
– It was the Gorilla’s birthday, which was celebrated with other Arizona and national mascots during halftime.
Four games in nine days. All on the road.
The trip begins with a stop at Moda Center on Tuesday, Jan. 16, to take on Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum of the Portland Trail Blazers for the third meeting between the clubs this season. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.
The Suns suffered losses in each of the first two matchups this season, including a 48-point defeat in the season opener, their largest loss in franchise history and Portland’s 100th win in the series.
Overall, the Blazers have won 10 of the last 14 meetings.
After Portland, the Suns will visit Denver, Milwaukee and Indiana.