When: Sunday, November 25th - 2:00 PM Phoenix local time (4:00 PM EST)
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, MI
Watch: Fox Sports AZ
Listen: AZ Sports Radio 98.7 FM
The Phoenix Suns might be tied for the second worst record in the league, but over their last five games (without trying to sound like local fan boy) they have not played like one of the worst teams in the NBA.
The Suns are 2-3 in that stretch and have only been outscored by a cumulative total of one point.
The Suns most recent victory, in last second fashion on the road against MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, could be a statement that this team won’t be a punching bag for the remainder of the season.
Or it could just be an anomaly capping a brief stint of improved play. A peak before another valley. The NBA season isn’t linear.
Momentum and consistency can be fickle.
But five games is starting to border on a trend, so one can hope Phoenix can avoid reverting to the abhorrence of their first 13.
The Detroit Pistons, under new head coach Dwane Casey, will attempt to stymie the Suns with a pair of dynamic big men.
Blake Griffin is averaging 25.3 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. The only two other players in the league matching the totals across those three categories are Anthony Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Griffin is also averaging nearly 40% from three point range on a career high six attempts per game. If he continues at this pace, he will be a strong candidate to make his sixth All-Star appearance after a three year hiatus.
Andre Drummond is also off to a hot start, averaging 19.5 points and a league leading 16.1 rebounds per game. Both of those totals would be career highs for the 25 year old All-Star. At 6’11” and 280 pounds, Drummond promises to provide another physical challenge for Suns rookie center DeAndre Ayton.
Detroit is coming off a 116-111 overtime victory against the Houston Rockets on Friday night. Drummond had a 23 point, 20 rebound effort in the win.
The Suns are also coming off a Friday night win thanks to a solid overall team effort punctuated by a game winning shot by Jamal Crawford with less than a second remaining on the clock.
Crawford was one of three players who scored in double figures off the bench along with Josh Jackson and Richaun Holmes.
Devin Booker led the way for the Suns with 29 points and seven assists. Booker has had at least six assists in all but one game this season. He is tied for 10th in the league with 7.3 assists per game... not bad for a shooting guard.
James Harden and Booker are the only two players in the league averaging at least 24 points and seven assists per game.
This hasn’t just been the Devin Booker show lately, though, as the Suns have been getting contributions from other areas.
Richaun Holmes has been a sparkplug since the departure of Tyson Chandler. Holmes has scored 36 points in the last three games on 16-21 shooting. He has also provided palpable energy for a team that was sorely lacking it earlier this season.
T.J. Warren finished with 19 points against the Bucks on 8-13 shooting, barely snapping a streak of seven straight games with at least 20 points. Warren is also 12th in the league in three point shooting percentage (.470) nearly a quarter of the way through the season.
It is also probably not a coincidence that the Suns five game stretch of improved play began when Mikal Bridges was inserted in the starting lineup. Mikal’s counting numbers might not be as dazzling as his co-rookie teammate Ayton, but his defense and solid play affect the bottom line.
Speaking of Ayton, who is averaging 16.5 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, it will be interesting to see how he responds to facing off against Andre Drummond after not being challenged down low in the last two contests.
I think it’s safe to say that this will be more of a paint match up than against Brook Lopez, who inexplicably decided to set an NBA record by attempting 12 three pointers without making a single one.
After a pair of close losses against the Philadelphia 76ers (119-114) and Chicago Bulls (124-116), the Suns win against the Bucks gives Phoenix a chance to earn a split in their four game road trip before heading home to play the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday.
A win could build even more confidence for this young team that is showing glimpses that it might be finding its way.
A loss and the Suns will be all alone with the second worst record in the league and staring up at a Western Conference standings where every other team has at least twice as many wins as them.
At least the Suns have shown enough recently that a blowout loss doesn't seem imminent.