The Suns’ high-powered offense averaged an NBA-best 110.4 points per game in 2004-05. Phoenix, though, was also the worst defensive team, allowing 103.3 points.
This season, they are still among the top scoring teams in the league, averaging 102.3 points, but have been showing signs of improvement on defense.
Phoenix is holding opponents to 88.4 points a game in the last five games, going 4-1 in that span, including a 92-81 win Friday over the New Jersey Nets.
“We’re not out to score 120 points every night,” said Nash, who added six assists and praised the rebounding effort by newcomer Thomas, acquired in an offseason trade with the New York Knicks.
Thomas, who has struggled with his shot this season, said, “I have been focusing on my rebounding. It’s been a tough year. My teammates have been supporting me all the way.”
The 19 rebounds matched Thomas’ output in his previous four games. He is averaging 7.8 rebounds in 30 career games against the Pacers.
Phoenix recorded a season-low by limiting the Nets to 39.5 percent shooting from the floor.
“Our defense was awesome,” Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni said.
Boris Diaw had 10 points and a season-best nine assists for Phoenix, which continues a five-game homestand. The Suns have won three in a row at home after a 1-4 start there to the season.
While the Suns’ defense has been promising, they will face their first opponent in four games with a record over .500 they host the Pacers, winners of five of six.
“In the second half we came out and we really put our will on those guys. I think our maturity and our experience really took us to the next level,” said O’Neal.
In his last eight games against the Suns, O’Neal has averaged 23 points and 9.1 rebounds.
Indiana has dropped five of its last six in Phoenix, reaching 100 points just once.
“They’ve got the roadrunners out there in Phoenix. It’s going to be another tough game,” O’Neal said.
STANDINGS (through Nov. 29): Pacers - 2nd place (tied), 1 1/2 GB, Central Division. Suns - 3rd place, 2 GB, Pacific Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Pacers - O’Neal, 21.2 ppg and 10.8 rpg; Tinsley, 5.8 apg. Suns - Marion, 18.9 ppg and 12.5 rpg; Nash, 10.8 apg.
2004-05 SEASON SERIES: Even, 1-1.
LAST MEETING: Jan. 14; Pacers, 101-83. At Indianapolis, O’Neal had 29 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks to help the Pacers avenge a 35-point loss at Phoenix a few days earlier.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Pacers - 4-2 on the road; Suns - 4-4 at home.