Tuesday, February 20, 2024

NBA Preview: Indiana Pacers (24-18) at Phoenix Suns (23-18)

The Indiana Pacers try to close out a six-game road swing on a high note on Sunday when they visit the recently surging Phoenix Suns.

Phoenix rides a four-game winning streak after Devin Booker erupted for a season-high 52 points in a 123-109 win at New Orleans on Friday.

Booker’s outburst marked his sixth career game of 50-plus points, and was the third time in four games he has scored at least 31. The former All-NBA selection credited the offensive performance to Phoenix’s play on the defensive end.

Phoenix’s defense faces the NBA’s top-scoring offense Sunday, with Indiana coming in averaging 125.4 points per game.

The Pacers have dropped 3-of-5 amid their road swing, however, and scored at least 10 points fewer than their average in each loss after Friday’s 118-115 setback at Portland.

Indiana rebounded from 117-109 and 132-105 defeats at Denver and Utah last Sunday and Monday with a 126-121 win Thursday at Sacramento. In Friday’s loss at Portland, the big three of Tyrese Haliburton, Myles Turner and newly acquired Pascal Siakam all scored 21-plus points, led by Turner’s 29.

Friday marked Haliburton’s return to the lineup from a five-game absence due to a hamstring injury. The league leader in assists at 12.6 per game dished 17 to go with 21 points.

Siakam – whom Indiana added in a deal that sent Bruce Brown and Jordan Nwora to Toronto, along with Kira Lewis by way of New Orleans and three future first-round draft picks – finished with 21 points, six rebounds and three assists in his first game with the Pacers.

A two-time All-NBA selection, Siakam is averaging 22.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.8 rebounds per game this season with 39 played in Toronto.

The Pacers newcomer will be part of the effort to contain Kevin Durant, Phoenix’s leading scorer at 28.9 points per game.

Durant has scored fewer points than his average in each of the four wins during the Suns’ winning streak, going for 18 points on Jan. 11 against the Los Angeles Lakers; 21 on Jan. 14 at Portland; 27 on Tuesday vs. Sacramento; and 26 at New Orleans.

He has shot efficiently over that stretch, however, with three games making 50 percent or more of his field-goal attempts. Durant has made 50-plus percent in seven of the past nine games in which he has played, dating back to Dec. 27.

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