Pacers-Suns Preview: Off to the Desert

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The Indiana Pacers will finish up their Western Conference road trip with the 9-9 Phoenix Suns tonight. Indiana is recently coming off a loss to the Utah Jazz, getting destroyed. Danny Granger had the flu, the Jazz were on a roll, and the Pacers were just finishing up a game less than 24 hours earlier than this one. It was a schedule loss, too, then. But now with a full day’s rest, Indy has the energy to hopefully get past Steve Nash and Phoenix.

I hope to see Indy flying off the boards right away, as the team’s leading-rebounder for the Pacers is Roy Hibbert with 9.2 averaged per game. That is way better compared to the Suns’ leader in Channing Frye, who is averaging 5.7 rebounds per game. I see Hibbert having a big game. Accu Score predicts a 64-percent chance for the Suns to win against Indy’s 36-percent chance.

My prediction would be Indiana winning, 98-89. But even if they lose, they are still at .500 at 9-9. But Indy still needs to keep it rolling for them. Danny Granger needs to get it clicking as well as the rest of the team tonight, now with full energy to go. Hopefully a win is out there.

“The Jazz are right in the hunt in the West and we’re trying to get a playoff spot,” Pacers coach Jim O’Brien said of the loss from the Jazz. “There’s a world of difference between their franchise and ours right now.”

“We played a really good defensive game — we almost held them to 100 points,” Jason Richardson said after scoring 25 points in Phoenix’s 107-101 over the Golden State Warriors. ” …This is a step forward in the right direction. We have to look at the film and get ready for tomorrow’s game.”

Come on Pacers.

I also had a chance to have an interview with Michael Shwartz of ValleyoftheSuns.com for the game. Here is the interview:

Josh Dhani: What affect do you think it has on the Suns of the departure of  Amare Stoudemire?

Michael Schwartz: It’s been a pretty sizable impact. Although Hakim Warrick has done a decent job at times, they are missing the best roll man in the NBA and the perfect complement to Steve Nash in the two man game. Beyond that, they miss his size on the boards (never thought they would miss him in that manner). They are playing so small without him, and they also lack a go-to scorer in crunch time.

JD: A lot of trade rumors have been coming up of Steve Nash, what is your take on that?

MS: I believe that Steve Nash should not be traded. That article has my full thoughts and I spoke about it near the end of this week’s Phoenix Suns podcast, but I believe that first off it’s a moot point unless the Suns fall out of the race. I would sign off on such a deal (because obviously I have that kind of power and all) if they got back a young power forward who could develop into a No. 1 option. I doubt such a deal would be on the table, and I would reject the J.J. Hickson and a pick kind of deal that was rumored for Amare. I worry about what the Suns’ future will be like without Nash, so unless you get a guy who can significantly improve it I say hang on to MV Steve and take your chances this season. Perhaps the offseason will be a different story when teams have most assets available to offer and Nash will have more time to assimilate to a new team.

JD: Grant Hill says he does not want to retire. He looks to play until he is 40. What is your opinion on that?

MS: He certainly can do that. He’s making up for the time lost on the front end of his career. He’s possibly the Suns’ best perimeter defender, often taking the opposition’s top perimeter scorer, and he’s been fantastic offensively as well. It’s a shock when he misses his mid-range shot, and he’s lethal in transition and a solid rebounder. If Hill keeps this play up, he will certainly play that long.

JD: At 9-9, do you think the Suns are still good enough for a playoff spot?

MS: Definitely. However, they need to acquire a quality four if they want to have a shot at making any noise. Only the Lakers boast a more efficient offense than the Suns, so just mediocre defense and rebounding can lead them to the playoffs, although they’ve been worse than mediocre in those departments thus far. Their schedule has also been very difficult, but they got tough road wins in LA, Utah and Atlanta, and I feel once Robin Lopez returns and a trade is potentially made this is a playoff team.

JD: Who is the Suns X-Factor for this game?

MS: Hakim Warrick. If he’s clicking with the Suns’ starters and grabbing a couple more boards than usual, this is a very tough team to beat.

JD: What is your prediction for the Suns this year?

MS: 47-35 and a first-round playoff loss.

JD: This question is probably asked a lot, but what is your opinion on the Heat forming up and how they are doing right now?

MS: It’s great for the NBA. They’re the most talked about .500 team in NBA history right now. I think they’re going to be fine. They’ve had a ton of injuries and we knew it would be an adjustment all of them playing together. They still are as big a threat as anyone to go to the Finals in the East, and I still think they have the makings of a dynasty once everyone gets healthy and they sign a few more guys down the road. I thought LeBron’s best move was New York, but in terms of intrigue you’ve got to love what happened as well as their struggles. Everybody’s eyes are on this basketball team right now.

JD: What is the key for the Pacers to stop the Suns?

MS: Rebound and make shots. When teams miss long jumpers and allow the Suns to run, there’s no beating them. They can throw a 30-point quarter on you like nothing, but when they are pounded on the glass and decimated defensively it takes some of the luster off the offense, and there aren’t as many easy opportunities.

JD: What is your prediction for the Finals?

MS: At the start of the season I said Lakers over Heat, and I’ll stick with that. I think Miami will get it together.

JD: What is your prediction for this game?

Suns 110, Pacers 102. Revenge for Nash’s gash and Earl Watson’s slapfest with Channing Frye last season.

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Tags: Channing Frye Danny Granger Indiana Pacers Jason Richardson Jim O'Brien NBA Phoenix Suns Roy Hibbert Steve Nash

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