Phoenix Suns at Indiana Pacers
- Phoenix has won 11 of the last 13 games in this series, including four in a row.
- After giving up 103.4 points per game in November, the Suns have lowered that to 98.5 ppg so far this month. That 4.9 ppg improvement in scoring defense is third best in the NBA.
- Indiana (9.7) is the only team in the NBA allowing fewer than 10 fast break points per game this season.
- Jared Dudley is averaging 20.8 points per game on 58 percent shooting over his last six contests. He had a career-high 36 points in Wednesday's loss to the Knicks.
- Paul George has had a double-double in three of his last four games. He is one of just three players in the league with at least 450 points, 200 rebounds, 100 assists and 40 steals this season.
- David West has had at least 10 points, four rebounds and one assist in 19 straight games. That is the longest active streak in the NBA.
By MATT BEARDMORE
(AP) -- The Central Division-leading Indiana Pacers received an unexpected break in their schedule.
Facing the slumping Phoenix Suns could be another break.
Playing its first game in six days, Indiana goes for a season-best fourth consecutive victory on Friday night when Phoenix tries to snap its longest road losing streak in three years.
Looking to build on victories at Cleveland and New Orleans, the Pacers (16-12) didn't get a chance to extend their winning streak on Wednesday when their game versus Chicago was postponed due to a snowstorm that hit Indianapolis.
As a result, Indiana will now try to win for the seventh time in eight games with its first matchup against Phoenix (11-18) this season.
The Suns have won four in a row over the Pacers and six of seven visiting Indiana following a 113-111 victory on March 23, but they open their three-game trip with six straight losses outside the desert. It's their longest road skid since a seven-game stretch spanning Dec. 1-26, 2009.
Phoenix will try to avoid matching that run after dropping its third straight overall on Wednesday, 99-97 to New York.
Knicks guard J.R. Smith hit a shot over P.J. Tucker at the buzzer after point guard Sebastian Telfair turned the ball over on the other end with one second remaining.
"Obviously it was a really tough loss, difficult loss," said coach Alvin Gentry, whose team won a season-best four in a row prior to this slide. "I thought we did a good job of fighting back but we've got to do something about the second quarter."
The Suns were outscored 27-15 in that period after getting outscored 30-19 in the second quarter of Sunday's 103-77 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Pacers had an awful second quarter on Saturday - getting outscored 28-18 and falling behind the Hornets by 22 - but David West scored 20 of his 25 points in the second half of the 81-75 victory.
"I thought the team did a good job of just gaining our composure and getting a little more focused defensively (in the second half)," said West, the team leader with 17.4 points per game and 8.1 rebounds.
The Pacers lead the league in scoring defense (89.9) and field goal defense (40.8 percent).
That does not bode well for a Suns team averaging 89.0 points on 42.5 percent field-goal shooting since their last victory.
Phoenix could be more hard-pressed to end the Pacers' season-best three-game home winning streak if point guard Goran Dragic doesn't play. Dragic, the Suns' leader with 14.1 points and 6.2 assists per game, sat out the second half on Wednesday after getting undercut by Smith and suffering bruises to his hip, back and wrist.
"You do not want to see any of your teammates hit the floor like that," Telfair said. "Hopefully he will be back next game."
It's uncertain if Pacers guard Gerald Green will return after missing Saturday's contest with a sprained left ankle. Green had 35 points off the bench in the previous two games.
Since a nine-game stretch on the Suns' bench, swingman Jared Dudley is averaging 18.1 points on 56.0 percent shooting in nine contests. He hit five 3-pointers and scored a career-best 36 on Wednesday.
Phoenix has won 11 of 13 in this series.
Updated December 27, 2012