Fresh off a statement victory and with a perfect five-game road trip behind them, the Phoenix Suns might want to avoid exhaling just yet with a return home ahead.
The Suns will play host to the Indiana Pacers on Saturday, facing an opponent that should be reeling with so many key players watchingfrom the bench. But Indiana just pulled off an overtime victory at Golden State on Thursday, one day after winning a road game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
It's not as if the Suns should fret too much. They won five consecutive road games over a 10-day stretch and have come out on top in eight of their last nine contests. And they capped their road trip in style with a 109-101 victory at Dallas on Thursday after the Mavericks had won 10 of their previous 11 games.
Suns star Chris Paul is a great facilitator from his point guard spot, but he also knows when to call his own number in the time of need. He had 10 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter against Dallas, a game in which he also had 11 assists.
Paul did not have a turnover in 36 minutes of play as the Suns rallied from a nine-point deficit with less than nine minutes remaining. It was the 49th game of Paul's career when he had double-digit assists without a turnover, the most of any active player in the NBA.
Last season was Paul's first with the Suns and he guided them to the NBA Finals. This season, he has them atop the Western Conference with the best record in the league.
"We all trust each other and we had a lot of learning curves last year but having that time together, I know put us in position where we never hit the panic button," said the Suns' Devin Booker, who had 28 points against the Mavericks. "We never get flustered or out of whack. We just stick to what we do and we perform well down the stretch."
The Pacers showed their resolve in finishing off Thursday's 121-117 victory over the Warriors. Indiana was without Malcolm Brogdon (Achilles) and Caris LeVert (calf), who make up the starting backcourt, while big man Domantas Sabonis (ankle) also was out.
Sabonis leads Indiana with 19.0 points per game, while Brogdon is third at 18.5 -- with a team-best 5.9 assists -- and LeVert adds 18.4 points per game.
Against the Warriors, Chris Duarte led the way with 27 points for the Pacers, while Justin Holiday added 16, including a game-tying 3-pointer with six seconds remaining in regulation. Keifer Sykes scored five of his 10 points in overtime.
"This is one of those nights that the Indiana faithful live for," said Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle, whose team is just 17-29 and has lost 10 of its last 13. "These are the stories of underdog teams that give themselves a fighting chance and find a way. It was beautiful to watch, beautiful to be a part of.
"I was really happy for the guys. They really fought for it."
Before the Pacers left on their current five-game road trip they played host to the Suns, falling 112-94 on Jan. 14. Holiday scored 25 points for Indiana, while Booker led Phoenix with 35 points.
--Field Level Media