Sputtering Pistons get run over on road again, pummeled 109-92 by Suns

Detroit News

Nolan Bianchi
| The Detroit News

If the West Coast is the best coast, nobody told the Detroit Pistons.

They struggled to fill up the basket in Phoenix on Friday night and were buried by a seven-point Suns possession in the second quarter before eventually dropping their third straight, 109-92.

The Pistons (5-17) have trailed by 20 points or more in each game of their recent losing streak as they advanced to 1-10 on the road.

“I think it’s a product, some, of who you play,” Pistons head coach Dwane Casey said about the slow starts. 

“Phoenix is a fast-paced team that tries to get up and down, shoot the 3, get the ball up the floor. We’ve had that issue all year with different lineups.”

Devin Booker led all scorers with 23, Chris Paul had 20 and nine assists, Frank Kaminsky added 15 and Deandre Ayton led all rebounders with 13 for the Suns (12-9).

BOX SCORE: Suns 109, Pistons 92

Jerami Grant had a team-high 21 points, Saddiq Bey had 14, and Isaiah Stewart added a career-tying 10 points and 10 rebounds off the bench for his second career double-double.

The Pistons shot 37 percent from the floor, 19 percent from 3, and 61 percent at the free-throw line. Their mark from long range hurt them the most; Phoenix hit 38 percent of its shots from beyond the arc.

“In the NBA, one of the most lethal weapons you can have is 3-point shooting,” Casey said. “It was very evident with our lack of scoring that that’s what was effective.”

Stewart played a career-high 24 minutes off the bench and helped Detroit cut the deficit to 11 with 7:23 in the first quarter by chipping with tough defense and rebounding.

“It just comes down to the defensive end,” Stewart said. “I feel like that’s the one thing we can control, is playing hard on the defensive end, doing everything that we can to limit them with scoring. The offense is going to come. I know we didn’t shoot it great tonight, but I feel like we just need to get better on the defensive side.”

Casey credited the “second unit, the young guys” with helping turn around the energy.

“They changed the game with energy, playing with purpose, pure heart, innocence, and everything else,” Casey said. “They got us back in that game. I love the way we played and competed, we just couldn’t hit a 3.”

The 3-point shooting wasn’t so much a matter of shot selection as it was a matter of the shots simply not going in, said Bey, who was 2-of-8 from 3.

“We’ll take the shots we take, that are open, then you’ve gotta control the defensive end,” Bey said. “We were satisfied with the shots we took, we’ve obviously got to make some more. But we’ve got to focus on the things we can control. We can’t control that.”

Detroit trailed by 3 heading into the second quarter, where things quickly fell apart. The Suns jumped out to an 8-point lead before Paul was fouled on a 3-pointer by Pistons shooting guard Josh Jackson, which was reviewed and called a flagrant. 

Paul hit the free throw and Cameron Johnson nailed a 3-pointer on the in-bound to take a 15-point lead that the Pistons could never recover from.

Derrick Rose (rest) and Wayne Ellington (calf) did not play. Blake Griffin started but spent much of the fourth quarter on the bench. He was 2-of-9 from the floor and scored nine.

After scoring the game’s first points, the Pistons allowed an 8-0 run, once again putting themselves behind the eight-ball before the game could get into full swing.

Delon Wright helped the Detroit storm back with a pair of steals, as it hit four consecutive field goals and added a pair of Griffin free throws to make it 12-8 with 6:17 left in the first.

Phoenix buttered its bread inside for much of the first quarter but got a pair of 3-pointers from Langston Galloway and E’Twaun Moore down the stretch that gave the Suns a 27-24 lead to close the quarter.

The Pistons started to fall away in the second. Inside lobs allowed them to stay afloat early, but poor shooting ultimately let Phoenix grab a 38-31 lead with 8:11 to go. 

Jackson’s flagrant foul on the Paul 3 and the ensuing 3-pointer by Johnson made it a 45-31 game.

Detroit entered halftime shooting 34-percent, 3 of 21 from 3, and trailing 57-44. 

Dwane Casey received a technical foul with 5:58 left in the third quarter.

Grant scored 10 third-quarter points and Stewart was productive off the bench, but neither Piston could help Detroit cut the deficit. The Pistons trailed 87-68 heading into the final 12 minutes.

A Grant jumper cut the lead to 92-81 with 7:23 remaining, a semblance of hope that Booker promptly crushed. He drained a 32-foot 3-pointer, which was followed up by a 3 from Paul to put the Pistons back down by 17.

Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.

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