Indiana Pacers (33-7) at Phoenix Suns (23-17)
Location: US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ
Tip: 10:30 p.m. EST/7:30 p.m. PT
National TV: ESPN
Line: IND -5.5
Indiana is set to take on the Phoenix Suns tonight for the first of two meetings between the clubs this season. The Pacers meet the Suns again on Thursday, January 30, just over a week from tonight.
As I wrote earlier today, Phoenix presents a unique matchup for the Indiana Pacers. They are a young team with a first-year head coach in Jeff Hornacek. Hornacek understands the NBA as good as anyone, having played a number of seasons, most notable for his days with the Utah Jazz.
Since the Suns are so young and have so many new faces in Hornacek’s system, there is an understanding of what they like to do. However, Indiana has not seen this team yet and thus will need to stick to their game plan and feed off their own defense.
A couple of key matchups may stand out tonight. The first is Roy Hibbert versus former teammate and backup center Miles Plumlee. The Indiana Pacers drafted Plumlee in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft. He learned from Hibbert but sparingly played because of the Pacers’ depth at the position. Plumlee was then traded to Phoenix along with another former Pacer, Gerald Green, and a first-round draft pick in exchange for Luis Scola.
As a starter for a young Phoenix squad, Plumlee has developed his game nicely, averaging nearly a double-double with 9.6 points and 8.7 rebounds a game in almost 28 minutes of action.
The second matchup I look forward to watching is Indiana All-Star Paul George against PJ Tucker and Green. I expect Hornacek to switch between the two on George as Green matches up better at 6-8. Tucker is 6-6 and could guard Lance Stephenson (6’5″) to start the game; George is 6-9.
Phoenix is a surprise in the west halfway through the season at 23-17. Indiana has the best record in the league at 33-7. It will be a tough game, but the Pacers get their sixth straight win, 98-90.