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INDIANAPOLIS – Even as the NBA season reaches the second half, the Indiana Pacers continue to respond from losses in a professional manner.
Wednesday was another example of that with the Pacers running away from the Phoenix Suns for a 112-87 victory.
“As I told our guys, I loved the way we responded for 48 minutes,” head coach Nate McMillan said after the Pacers moved to 29-16 on the year. “This is a scrappy team, they’re going to play hard and I thought we were solid throughout on both ends of the floor. We established our defense. Offensively we had much better ball movement than last game, just a really good effort after a bad effort in Utah.”
Indiana led by just 6 at halftime, but a dominant third quarter all but ended this game.
Even with Malcolm Brogdon (who needed stitches for a cut on his forehead) in the locker room, the Pacers went on a 25-6 run in the third quarter to take a 25-point lead.
T.J. McConnell (10 points and 11 assists) played with the starters and helped the game-clinching run.
Indiana’s bench ended up outscoring the Suns, 45-33.
T.J. Warren led all scorers with 25 points, playing his first game back in Phoenix since the Suns surprisingly traded him back in June.
“Absolutely it was different,” Warren said of his return. “Engaging with the fans a little bit, their reaction. There was a lot of emotions but as soon as the ball went into the air it was time to play basketball and that’s all I was focused on. It definitely felt good to come back to a place where I spent my first five years. They gave me my start, they started my career. I’m very grateful for that and it feels good to get a win. Same approach as any other game to me. It’s all basketball, it’s all about hoops. It felt good to get a win.”
Domantas Sabonis scored 24 points and grabbed 13 rebounds with the Pacers beating the Suns for a 6th straight time.
Phoenix didn’t make a three-pointer until the final minute of the third quarter. Suns leading scorer Devin Booker was limited to 6 points on 5-of-12 shooting and 4 turnovers.
The 87 points by the Suns were their second fewest of the season.
Indiana is now 2-1 on their western road trip, with two games still to go out west.
Three Things Learned
-T.J. Warren Gets Some Revenge: The national attention in the NBA was elsewhere on Wednesday night, but the Pacers and Suns meeting in Phoenix did have a T.J. Warren ‘return game’ storyline. Warren was terrific with 25 points, on 11-of-18 shooting. He was back to his older Phoenix days, not attempting a single three pointer, yet still finding a high-level of production. Last June, it was a major head scratcher on why the Suns sent Warren (and a second-round pick) to the Pacers. Clearly, they wanted to move in a different direction at the wing. That loss has been the Pacers’ gain, with Warren continuing his strong scoring presence, while also showing some growth on the defensive end of the floor.
-Pacers Continue To Respond: A staple of Nate McMillan’s team this season has been their ability to respond from losses. Since dropping their first three games of the season, the Pacers have lost by double figures 7 different times. Every single time, they’ve followed up the big defeats with a win. Wednesday was another one of those instances. Over the course of an 82-game season, avoiding losing streaks is obviously key. The Pacers have done that and it’s a huge reason why they are in the thick of trying to get homecourt in the playoffs. Out west for 3 more games, a loss on Wednesday could have led to a losing streak, but the Pacers stopped any thought of that, which will at least salvage a 2-3 record on the road trip.
-Malcolm Brogdon Leaves Early: Some friendly fire from a Myles Turner elbow forced Malcolm Brogdon to sit out the entire second half on Wednesday. An inadvertent elbow from Turner late in the second quarter caught Brogdon in the forehead, which led to 3 stiches to stop bleeding. After the win, Nate McMillan said Brogdon didn’t feel good enough to return, with the Pacers evaluating the point guard for a concussion. This will be something to keep an eye on with the Pacers having two more games to wrap up their western road trip.
Pacers Upcoming Schedule
-at Warriors 1/24 (Friday)
-at Trailblazers 1/25 (Sunday)
-Bulls 1/29 (Wednesday)
-Knicks 2/1 (Saturday)
-Mavericks 2/3 (Monday)
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