Coming off their most lopsided loss of the season, the Indiana Pacers hope for a better start in Wednesday night's road game against the Phoenix Suns.
The Pacers were upended 118-88 on Monday at Utah against a Jazz team that has been tough at home on opponents all season with a 17-3 record in Salt Lake City. Making things even tougher for Indiana was that Monday's game came a day after defeating the Denver Nuggets at altitude.
The physical nature of the challenge showed up early and never went away. The Pacers shot 42.6 percent from the field in the first half and 41.9 percent for the game. They were outrebounded 53-30 and had just four second-chance points to 22 for Utah.
The dud of a performance ended a five-game winning streak for a team that had been on the rise and was looking to get off to a hot start on their current five-game road trip.
"We did get off to a slow start," Pacers head coach Nate McMillan said. "Just didn't have a lot of movement. That team came out aggressive and they have a lot of weapons over there."
They also had the advantage of a day of rest and a game in their own arena.
"Just one of those nights," the Pacers' Myles Turner said. "Some people call it a schedule loss, but I think that they came out and they moved the ball very well, forced our defense to work and we weren't hitting shots so it's a recipe for disaster."
Meanwhile the Suns are coming off a 120-118 loss at home Monday against San Antonio.
Phoenix trailed by 20 points in the third quarter and was down 96-83 heading into the fourth, but a late charge gave the Suns their first lead of the game with just under three minutes remaining. They were outscored 9-5 down the stretch, but head coach Monty Williams still liked what he saw in the final quarter.
"That's the deal: resiliency," Williams said, per the Arizona Republic. "That's who we've been all year. It won't change. The guys in our group fight until the end and I'm proud of that. That's a DNA that we're about every day."
It was just the second defeat in the last six games for the Suns, who are finding a rhythm with Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton finally together for the past 11 games following Ayton's suspension and an ankle injury.
The Suns are 18-25 on the season but 6-5 since Dec. 30. The duo combined for 62 points on Monday with Booker scoring 37, while Ayton added 12 rebounds. Booker leads the NBA with 32.4 points per game in January.
Kelly Oubre Jr. returned for the Suns after missing two games while in concussion protocol, but Aron Baynes (hip) and Cameron Johnson (quad) did not play.
The Suns are one victory from matching last season's total of 19.
--Field Level Media