Indiana looks to close its four-game western swing on a positive note Friday night while the Suns try to build some momentum as they open a home-heavy portion of their schedule.
Going for their season-high third straight victory following wins over the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento, the Pacers (9-8) trailed by as many as 19 points in the first quarter of Wednesday’s 110-88 loss to Utah.
“The Jazz are right in the hunt in the West and we’re trying to get a playoff spot,” Pacers coach Jim O’Brien said. “There’s a world of difference between their franchise and ours right now.”
While the Pacers are off to their best start in four seasons and trail Central-leading Chicago by just one-half game, they’ll have to avoid performances like the one against the Jazz if they’re going to end their five-year playoff drought. Indiana scored its third-fewest points in a game this season, committed 18 turnovers and was outrebounded 46-32.
The Pacers committed just nine turnovers, but also were outrebounded by 14 in a 113-105 loss in Phoenix on March 6 in a contest marred by two fights and eight technical fouls.
Pacers leading scorer Danny Granger(notes) (22.2 points per game) likely won’t receive a warm welcome at US Airways Center after getting into a skirmish with Suns center Channing Frye(notes) in the final minute of the third quarter of that matchup.
Pacers center Roy Hibbert(notes) and Suns shooting guard Jason Richardson(notes) were also whistled for technicals, which came after Indiana’s Josh McRoberts(notes) tussled with former Sun Louis Amundson(notes).
Granger, who had a team-high 24 points with seven rebounds in the loss to the Suns, will try to find his shooting touch after missing 10 of 16 and scoring 14 versus the Jazz.
Facing a Suns team allowing a league-high 111.3 points per game could help the Pacers forward do that.
Phoenix (9-9), though, returns home following a solid defensive effort in Thursday’s 107-101 victory over Golden State. The Suns could have held the Warriors under 100 points if not for an uncontested layup by Stephen Curry(notes) with 15 seconds left.
“We played a really good defensive game - we almost held them to 100 points,” Richardson said after scoring 25. ” …This is a step forward in the right direction. We have to look at the film and get ready for tomorrow’s game.”
The Pacers will have to be ready for Richardson, who is averaging 31.0 points and shooting 63.8 percent from the field - including 15 of 22 from 3-point range - in the last three games.
Richardson hit four 3s and scored 20 points with 10 boards in the Pacers’ last visit to Phoenix.
The Suns, who play five of six at home, have lost just three times in Indiana’s last 14 trips to Arizona.
The Pacers are trying to post their sixth road win - something they didn’t do last season until Jan. 25.