NBA: East’s worst meets West’s best as Pistons take on Suns
The Detroit Pistons own the worst record in the Eastern Conference but are showing improvement with stellar back-to-back road victories.
Detroit now seeks its first three-game winning streak since late last season when it visits the Western Conference-best Phoenix Suns on Friday night.
The Pistons were mired in a seven-game losing streak and were 0-10 on the road before producing a 110-108 win over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday and adding a 125-116 victory over the Utah Jazz one night later.
Detroit is saddled with a 5-15 record but the consecutive road wins provided a big boost.
“Our togetherness brought us extra energy,” forward Bojan Bogdanovic said after the win over the Jazz. “That was a huge win (Tuesday) night and gave us big confidence and once again we played a great game.”
Bogdanovic scored 22 points against Denver and 23 against Utah. He played the past three seasons for the Jazz before being dealt to the Pistons in the offseason.
Bogdanovic has been a big hit with Detroit and has scored 20 or more points in five straight outings and seven of the past eight. The 33-year-old is averaging 20.7 points per game.
The Pistons are thriving despite not having second-year pro Cade Cunningham (shin) for the past eight games. There is no timetable for the return of the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2021.
Saddiq Bey (ankle) flew back to Detroit for treatment and will miss his fourth straight game. Isaiah Stewart (toe) will sit out for the sixth straight game.
In addition, Killian Hayes (calf) was injured against the Jazz and isn’t expected to be available against the Suns.
Regardless, Detroit led by as many as 14 points against Utah and had 24 assists against just seven turnovers.
“Ball movement,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “We probably had only two possessions where we over-dribbled. … The ball moving beats any rotation in the league.”
The Suns will be without one of the top ball-handlers in the history of the sport as Chris Paul (heel) was ruled out for the eighth straight game.
Phoenix has gone 4-3 without Paul, including back-to-back home victories over the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers earlier this week.
The consecutive wins were the first since the Suns had a five-game winning streak snapped on Nov. 4.
Deandre Ayton said Phoenix isn’t worried about where the record stands after 17 games. He said the Suns are thinking about bigger things after losing in the NBA Finals to the Milwaukee Bucks two seasons ago and being punched out by the Dallas Mavericks in the second round last season.
“We’re not really playing hard to make you quit. We’re just playing hard,” Ayton said after the 115-105 win over the Lakers on Tuesday. “Because we have a bigger agenda. This team, we’ve been embarrassed the last two years playing the best basketball we’ve ever played and never finishing. …
“We’re looking at the brighter picture. We’re fighting for something way bigger than that.”
Ayton had 14 points and 15 rebounds against the Lakers while Devin Booker and Mikal Bridges each scored 25 points.
Cameron Payne, who has topped 20 points four times since Paul was hurt, had just 11 on 5-of-15 shooting.
Landry Shamet (concussion) will miss his seventh straight contest.
The Suns have won the past three meetings after Detroit prevailed in the previous eight.
–Field Level Media