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NBA: Struggling Pacers brace for visit from Suns

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The Phoenix Suns didn’t exactly put their best foot forward in the opener of their five-game road trip, however they still managed to come out on top.

Winners of four of their last five games overall, the Suns look to put forth a better effort on Friday when they visit the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis.

Sure, all five Phoenix starters reached double digits in scoring in a 99-95 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday, however the Suns committed 20 turnovers and allowed 22 offensive rebounds.

“When you have that many turnovers and you give up that many extra possessions, you’d better do something well,” Phoenix coach Monty Williams said. “I thought our half-court defense was sound.”

Jae Crowder scored a team-high 19 points, Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker each had 16 and Chris Paul collected 15 points and 12 assists in the victory.

“That’s one of them games you gotta put your hard hat on,” Paul said.

While the NBA-leading Suns have just nine losses on the season, the sputtering Pacers nearly have that many (eight) in their last nine games. Indiana added to that total by dropping both ends of a home-and-home set against the Boston Celtics this week.

“The blessing of the NBA is that it’s 80-plus games. So, we still have 40 games left,” Caris LeVert said. “There’s a lot of games left to correct what we saw that we did wrong in the first half of the season. I think that there’s a lot of time left still to do what we want to do. But we have to make that commitment to do it.”

LeVert returned from a five-game absence due to health and safety protocols to score 16 points in the Pacers’ 119-100 loss to the Celtics on Wednesday.

“It definitely felt great getting back out there with my teammates, just being around the guys,” LeVert said. “Being in isolation is definitely tough for anyone who has had to do it, but like I said I’m just glad to be back with the team.”

Malcolm Brogdon scored six points, playing just 17 minutes in his return from a sore right Achilles.

“Look it’s never seamless and in this case, you’re talking about two of our highly, highly skilled guys who have been out a significant amount of time,” Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said. “Tomorrow will be a new day and we’ll circle the wagons and try and get better.”

The Pacers will look for a better performance from 3-point range. They shot a season-low 19.4 percent (7 of 36) from beyond the arc, with Justin Holiday accounting as the lone Indiana player to make more than one 3-pointer.

Myles Turner finished with a team-high 18 points on Wednesday despite misfiring on all five of his 3-point attempts. He is 1 for 16 from beyond the arc in his last five outings.

Domantas Sabonis averages team-leading totals in points (19.0) and rebounds (11.9) this season. He averaged 25.0 and 17.5, respectively, in last season’s two-game series split against the Suns.

–Field Level Media

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