INDIANAPOLIS — If you ask the Phoenix Suns about their promising start to the NBA season, coach Jeff Hornacek is optimistic while the players are focused on the long-term goal of getting back to the playoffs.
After making a late-season playoff push last spring, the Phoenix Suns have picked up where they left off and are blazing their way through their first extended road trip of the season.
Gerald Green scored a game-high 23 points, Isaiah Thomas scored 16 points off the bench and two other starters scored in double figures Saturday in Phoenix's 106-83 road win over Indiana. With the victory Phoenix (9-5) got its fourth straight win - all on the road during a six-game road trip.
Things are looking up in the Valley of the Sun.
"We're getting a little bit of a rhythm," Hornacek said. "It's something about being on the road. These guys have come together and everybody is contributing."
The Suns improved their road record to 5-2 this season and remain one of the league's highest-scoring teams. And it was their ability to score in bunches that allowed the Suns to seize control against the Pacers.
Green, going against his former team, caught fire with three minutes left in the first quarter and stayed hot until he took himself out with seven minutes left in the half. In that stretch, Green dumped 18 points on the Pacers and helped the Suns maintain a lead that they took into the half (55-48).
He's among the group inside the organization that feels the team has turned the corner with Hornacek at the helm. But that group also says last season's late run and this season's early success only will be meaningful if the Suns can be consistent over the course of an 82-game schedule.
"We're potentially a 48-to-50 win team," Green said. "But potential doesn't mean anything if you don't prepare your potential. Right now we're just trying to take it game-by-game. Just because you win four games in-a-row doesn't mean you're guaranteed to make the playoffs so we're just trying to use this to build on."
With the loss, the Pacers not only saw their two-game win streak end, but they lost starting center Roy Hibbert midway through the first quarter due to a sprained left ankle. He attempted to return with 9:23 left in the first half but was unable to remain in the game. Hibbert logged just under seven minutes in the game.
In his absence, Ian Mahinmi recorded 12 points and 10 rebounds but was limited in the fourth quarter because of foul trouble. The Pacers weren't certain on Hibbert's status immediately after the game. He had already left the arena before the game ended.
Should Hibbert miss any action other than the 2 1/2 quarters he sat out Saturday, he'll join fellow starters George Hill, David West and Paul George on the sidelines. Those three starters have not yet played a game for the Pacers this season.
Despite relying on role players in the starting lineup because of the number of injuries, Indiana (5-8) had won four of its last five games entering Saturday's contest. Indiana was led by Rodney Stuckey, who scored 14 points off the Pacers bench. Hill scored 13 and grabbed six rebounds. Markieff Morris added 13 for Phoenix and Goran Dragic had 11.
Now headed out for a two-game road trip against Dallas and San Antonio, the Pacers say they're still confident in themselves and in the way they're approaching games despite having three starters who haven't played and awaiting an update on Hibbert's left ankle.
"I think we're here mentally. We're in every game," said Hill, who hit the game-winning shot Wednesday for Indiana in an 88-86 win over Charlotte. "We still believe in each other."
NO HARD FEELINGS - Going against his former team, Gerald Green torched the Pacers for 18 points in an 8-minute span. Indiana had no answer, and Green's run came to an end only because he pulled himself out of the game to catch a breather.
THEY'RE FREE - Phoenix has taken advantage of its trips to the foul stripe this season, leading the league at 82.9 percent going into Saturday's game. Against the Pacers, the Suns knocked down 18 of 20 free throws.
Indiana plays on the road Monday at Dallas.
Phoenix travels to Toronto on Monday.
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