Suns-Pacers Preview

The Associated Press

The Phoenix Suns are struggling in the midst of a heavy stretch of road games while trying to stay in playoff contention.

The Suns will try to get their first win on this four-game trip against Eastern Conference opponents when they visit the Indiana Pacers on Friday night.

Phoenix climbed back into the postseason race by winning 11 of 14, but it opened this trek with losses on back-to-back nights against Miami and Orlando.

The Suns (23-24), who are 2 1/2 games behind Houston for the final playoff spot in the West, averaged 102.3 points during that 14-game stretch, but 94.0 in the last two. One night after posting 20 turnovers against the Heat, they had 17 in a 103-93 loss at Orlando on Wednesday, trailing by as many as 22 points.

Marcin Gortat went 1 of 7 from the field and scored four points while Channing Frye went 4 of 10 for nine points after finishing with just two against Miami.

"We turned the ball over again too much, gave up too many easy baskets and then we have to complete plays," coach Alvin Gentry said. "We've still got to be able to execute. ... We were always playing from behind."

The Suns have dropped six of seven away from home, giving up an average of 106.5 points in those defeats.

That doesn't bode well considering they're two games into a stretch of 12 road games in 15 contests overall. They end this trip Sunday at Cleveland.

Steve Nash's play is also a concern. The 38-year-old point guard has as many assists (12) as turnovers the last two games and is averaging just 7.5 points in the last four.

Things won't get any easier against Indiana (27-18), which has won its last two and four of six following a four-game losing streak.

The Pacers are coming off an 85-83 win at Washington on Thursday - the second straight game and 17th this season in which they held an opponent to fewer than 90 points. They shot just 41.9 percent, but had 14 offensive rebounds and outscored the Wizards 54-32 in the second half.

Roy Hibbert had 19 points and nine rebounds and David West finished with 13 points and grabbed several key rebounds down the stretch despite dislocating his left pinkie in the third quarter.

West's offensive board set up a 3-pointer by Paul George to give Indiana an 84-83 lead with 1:01 remaining. The Pacers missed two more shots in the final minute, but West grabbed the rebound on each to help the team hold on.

"Seriously, he dislocated his finger and he was able to tip the ball out," Hibbert said. "It shows how strong-willed he is. He was putting on an offensive rebounding clinic down there. He's a big reason why we won tonight, probably the reason why we won."

Former Suns guard Leandro Barbosa, who scored 12 points in his Pacers debut Tuesday in a win over the Los Angeles Clippers, was held to two points Thursday. Barbosa, acquired from Toronto last week, has averaged 16.0 points in three meetings with Phoenix.

Indiana has lost three straight against the Suns, but is 10-3 against teams from the West this season, winning five in a row and holding the last four to an average of 81.5 points.

What to Read Next