Devin Booker Outduels T.J. Warren as Suns Beat Pacers, Continue Hot StreakAugust 6, 2020
The Phoenix Suns moved to 4-0 since the NBA's restart began with a 114-99 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Thursday at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida.
Three Suns had double-doubles. Phoenix big man DeAndre Ayton dominated with 23 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks and two steals. Devin Booker added 23 points and 10 assists, and Cameron Johnson posted 14 points and 12 boards.
Phoenix, which outrebounded Indiana 53-38, went on a 14-0 run to end the third quarter, turning a 75-72 deficit into an 86-75 edge. The Suns scored the first seven points in the fourth to complete a 21-0 run.
The 30-39 Suns moved within two games of the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot with four contests left. They are tied for 10th with the San Antonio Spurs, with the Portland Trail Blazers sitting ninth.
The 42-27 Pacers, who are fifth in the Eastern Conference and safely in the playoffs, lost their first restart game after beginning 3-0. Malcolm Brogdon had 25 points, six rebounds and six assists. T.J. Warren, who the Suns traded to the Pacers last offseason for cash considerations, had 16 points and 11 boards.
He averaged 39.6 points, including a 53-point outburst versus the Philadelphia 76ers, during the NBA's restart prior to the Suns game.
Suns C DeAndre Ayton: 23 PTS, 10 REB, 4 BLK, 2 STL
Suns G Devin Booker: 23 PTS, 10 AST
Suns F Cameron Johnson: 14 PTS, 12 REB
Pacers G Malcolm Brogdon: 25 PTS, 6 REB, 6 AST
Pacers F T.J. Warren: 16 PTS, 11 REB
Pacers C Myles Turner: 17 PTS, 8 REB, 3 BLK
Suns Continue Torrid Stretch
The Suns have long since eliminated any notion that their resurgent restart effort is a fluke.
A 125-112 win over the 24-44 Washington Wizards likely didn't convince NBA fans that much had changed since the NBA was suspended over four months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the Suns then followed up with matching 117-115 wins over the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers, both of whom are destined for the NBA playoffs.
It's not easy going blow for blow with triple-double machine Luka Doncic or two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, among others, but the young Suns got the job done.
Still, the 15-point victory over the Pacers may have been the Suns' most impressive showing yet.
Indiana came into the game with a 3-0 restart record thanks to Warren, who could not be stopped in Florida before the Phoenix game. Despite being shorthanded due to injury for much of the year, Indiana is headed to the Eastern Conference playoffs, where they'll be the sixth seed at worst.
But the Suns' young players are quickly maturing and making huge plays. Of note, Cameron Johnson has been a standout, seen here turning stellar defensive work into a quick bucket:
Booker and Ayton's chemistry has been on point, with the two connecting for an easy bucket:
It's not just the stars and highly touted rookies who are doing work for Phoenix, however, as the Suns are getting contributions throughout their entire rotation.
Of note, well-traveled veteran point guard Cameron Payne, who has played all of four games with the Suns (and for any NBA team this year) dropped 15 points in 22 minutes off the bench:
The Suns' schedule down the stretch isn't easy, featuring games against eventual playoff participants in the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, Philadelphia 76ers and Mavericks.
But we may be at the point at which fans need to shed any memories of the Suns prior to the NBA's suspension and judge them based on their body of work in Florida.
The team has grown and matured since last taking the court in March, and it's playing like a savvy and deep veteran squad that causes problems everywhere on the floor.
Ultimately, it wouldn't be a big surprise to see the Suns go 7-1 or even run the table into the playoffs at this juncture.
Pacers Cool Off After Scorching-Hot Start
The Pacers entered their first seeding game against the Philadelphia 76ers with a tall order as All-Star big man Domantas Sabonis was absent from the team while receiving treatment for plantar fasciitis.
Victor Oladipo (knee) and Malcolm Brogdon (neck) have also battled injuries in the bubble, putting the onus on Warren, Myles Turner and others to carry the team.
They have done just that, with Warren providing the points, Turner doing the dirty work in the paint and the rest of the Pacers filling their roles amid a successful beginning to their Florida stint.
Indiana got Brogdon back, and the team entered the Suns matchup as favorites. But the reality is that the Suns are a buzzsaw right now, and the Pacers were in the wrong place at the wrong time against a team that seemingly does everything right.
In essence, this loss should be treated like a blip on the radar rather than a symbol of a much larger problem.
Sure, being on the wrong end of a 21-0 run is certainly not ideal, and it may speak to some issues the team has scoring if Warren or Brogdon can't get it going.
However, Indiana has been a resilient, well-rounded and tough team all year. One bad loss doesn't change that. Expect to see the earlier restart version of the Pacers as they near the playoffs rather than the team that lost by 15 Thursday.
Both teams will play next on Saturday.
The Suns will look to move to 5-0 in Florida against the Miami Heat at 7:30 p.m. ET. The Pacers will play the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday at 6 p.m. ET.