Detroit Pistons scorched by Phoenix Suns, 109-92, but Isaiah Stewart shines

Detroit Free Press

Omari Sankofa II
| Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Pistons couldn’t overcome a cold shooting night Friday, falling to the Phoenix Suns at Phoenix Suns Arena, 109-92

The Pistons (5-17) shot 37.4% overall and missed 29 of their 36 attempts from 3-point range. Phoenix (12-9) led by double digits during the entire second half. 

Jerami Grant led Detroit with 21 points, and Saddiq Bey, inserted into the starting lineup with Wayne Ellington out with a right calf strain, had 14 points on 5-for-13 shooting. Isaiah Stewart had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds for the league-worst Pistons.

Devin Booker scored 23 for the Suns, and Chris Paul added 20 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.

The Pistons visit the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night to conclude their Western road trip.

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Stewart, energizer bunny

It’s becoming a sure bet when Stewart checks in, the rookie will bring a bundle of energy. Friday was one of his best outings, as he finished with a double-double — 10 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in 24 minutes. He blocked two shots in a 70-second stretch toward the end of the third quarter, and had strong defensive stretches.

In the fourth quarter, he was matched against Paul on consecutive possessions and held his own while defending in space, highlighting his value. The possession ended with Paul turning the ball over. Stewart is undersized for the center position, but showcased his versatility and upside on the defensive end in this game.

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Slow start sets Pistons back, again

The Pistons haven’t been a terrible first-quarter team this season. But cold starts have become a recurring issue during the last week.

They shot 31.8% in the first quarter against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday, and 27.3% in the first against the Golden State Warriors last Saturday. Their woes continued Friday, as they shot 34% overall and 14.3% from behind the arc in the opening quarter against the Suns. It didn’t bury them — at least at first — as they entered the second quarter with a 27-24 deficit, scoring 11 points off Phoenix’s six turnovers. 

The Suns clamped down and committed one turnover in the second quarter, and the Pistons never found their shooting touch. A 12-0 Suns run midway through the quarter enabled them to control the game, and the Pistons trailed by double-digits for the rest of the night. 

With Rose out, McGruder gets more point guard minutes 

Derrick Rose was a late scratch against Utah with an upset stomach. With two-way point guard Saben Lee inactive, coach Dwane Casey turned to Rodney McGruder — a player who has played point guard sparingly in the past, and not much with the Pistons. 

Rose missed Friday’s game as well, as Casey opted to rest him on the first night of a back-to-back. Lee was active, but McGruder received the bulk of the backup point guard minutes for the second straight game. He checked in toward the end of the first quarter, started the second quarter and entered the game again in the fourth, after Lee received a bump to the face. 

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After practice Thursday, Casey said he’s trusting McGruder at point guard due to his basketball intellect. During practices, McGruder often plays point guard on the scout team. Detroit’s other two-way guard, Frank Jackson, is more of a combo guard, Casey said. In difficult matchups, he prefers McGruder’s experience. That held true Friday.

“He’s one of our smartest players in the team, he’s one of the smarter players on the team,” Casey said Thursday. “I knew he could play the point guard. (Utah’s) defensive toughness, it’s tough to put a young point guard out there. Frank’s more of a two-one. I just felt confident that Rodney could handle it, that he’s been in those situations before. And he did.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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