The first game of an Eastern Conference back-to-back is against a hungry, yet injured, Detroit Pistons team.
What: Phoenix (6-2) @ Detroit Pistons (1-7)
When: 5:00 p.m. MST
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Michigan. Pizza, pizza.
Listen: 98.7 FM
Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!
C’mon, the Suns are in Detroit, the ‘Motor City’. I had to get the obvious pun out of the way. Let’s not lie to each other, you knew it was coming.
The Phoenix Suns face their second Eastern Conference opponent of the year tonight as they make their way to Michigan to battle the Pistons. While these teams are on opposite ends of the spectrum relative to wins and losses, you can never underestimate an NBA team. The margin for winning is razor thin in this league and if the Suns come out lackadaisical, they can and will be taken advantage of.
Do the Pistons have the worst record in the league? Yes. These are the games you are supposed to win if you want to be a playoff team. Remember last February when the Suns went to Detroit and lost to Andre Drummond? He had 31 points, shot 14 for 17 from the field, and they traded him to Cleveland the next day. How about when they hosted the Pistons later that month let Derrick Rose defeat them? They win either of those games last year and they are in the play-in playoff game.
It’s Orange Friday for Phoenix as they don the Statement Edition jerseys for the second time this season.
Detroit will be wearing their Association Edition threads, a jersey that they are currently 0-3 thus far this year. Like that matters.
The Suns injury report is absent of any names.
Detroit will most likely be without the services of Derrick Rose (knee) and Josh Jackson (ankle). Rookie Killian Hayes is out (hip).
The Pistons made plenty of off-season transactions that turned heads, although not necessarily for the right reasons. SI questioned their choices, stating, “The Pistons remain outside the top eight in the East despite their best efforts. Prolonging a true rebuild is an increasingly questionable decision.”
The acquisition of notable free-agent Jerami Grant for 3-year/$60M was generally well received, but the team did not attempt to bring back Christian Wood. The team signed center’s Mason Plumlee, Jahlil Okafor, and Suns’ fans favorite 4th overall pick Josh Jackson via free agency. The added Delon Wright from the Dallas Mavericks via trade. Not exactly the Bad Boys of days past.
After starting 0-4 on the season, Detroit won a New Year’s Day engagement against the Boston Celtics, 96-93. They played the Celtics two days later which resulted in a two-point loss. That was followed by the tough task of a back-to-back against the Milwaukee Bucks. A 10-point loss was followed by a 15-point loss.
There are many reasons as to why the Pistons have started 1-7 (their worst start since they began the 2012-13 campaign 0-8). Their defense ranks near the cellar in numerous categories, most notably opposing 50.7% FG% (30th). That’s last in the league. Opponent points per game? 119.1 (26th). Defensive rating? 114.1 (28th).
Offensively they aren’t much better, ranking 29th in FG% and 20th in Offensive Rating. They lack continuity as the injury bug has bit them hard:
- Blake Griffin missed a couple of games due to concussion protocol. He is still looking to get his legs under him this season, made apparent by his 2-9 performance against the Bucks on Wednesday (including 0-6 from the field).
- 7th overall pick Killian Hayes, who started the first 7 games of the season, suffered a torn labrum in his hip on Monday night is out indefinitely.
- Josh Jackson is having issues with his ankle and, as stated above, is listed as day-to-day. He has played well thus far, averaging 15.5 points and 4.5 rebounds.
- Derrick Rose left Wednesday’s game with a right knee contusion. Poor Mr. Rose.
Although 19th overall draft pick Saddiq Bey is showing promise as a young prospect and Jerami Grant is putting up career highs, the team is hobbled and lacks depth. They truly are limping into the matchup with the Suns.
Phoenix is riding high after a win over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night. The team connected on 21 three-pointers, the most since the team set a franchise record of 22 in 2010. The team is collectively shooting 39.1% from deep.
Their 6-2 start is the best since the 2009 season. Like Johnny Lawrence would said, “It’s bad ass”.
Opportunity is still present in multiple facets of the game for Phoenix. The team’s inability to attack downhill and get to the line needs to be addressed. The Suns have attempted 153 FT’s this season (19.1 per game) to the opposition’s 188 (23.5 per game). Devin Booker could exert himself offensively more early on in games, although his methodical approach is benefitting his defense in the first half. The team ranks 23rd in allowing fast break points per game. This is another area of improvement.
What is nice is the strengths vastly outweigh the weaknesses early this season. The team defense and commitment to that end isn’t just effective, it’s appreciated. When is the last time you said, “defense” and “Suns” in the same sentence? I’ll wait.
For more on the Suns, check these over the last couple of days:
Keys to a Suns Win
On paper the key to win against the Pistons is show up.
The Suns are a cohesive unit that can score on all three levels, play pesky defense, possess depth, and have an athletic advantage and nearly every position. If the Suns continue to entice opposing defenses into collapsing on Paul and Booker drives, leaving shooters open, we could see a performance similar to Wednesday night. If the Pistons choose to stay on their man and allow Paul and Booker to navigate the paint with Deandre Ayton, they’ll middy them all day.
The key to a Suns win is to play within the confines of their offense, trust their defense, and don’t fall victim to a slow start on the road.
I’m not going to get cute here. ESPN’s Matchup Predictor gives the Suns a 77.4% chance to win. FiveThirtyEight’s RAPTOR spread is -6.5 in favor of Phoenix.
I expect Phoenix to be up by a couple of possessions at the conclusion of the 1st quarter. The second team unit will come in an expand that lead to 10 and the Suns will keep Detroit at arms length for the remainder of the game.
Suns 116, Pistons 103