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Recap: Suns can’t close in 118-107 loss to Pistons

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The Phoenix Suns finished their road trip 1-3 after being outscored 35-23 by the Detroit Pistons in the final period.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Detroit Pistons
Blake “Cupcake” Griffin getting leveled by the monstrous Devin Booker.
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Suns dared the Pistons to shoot three pointers and Detroit obliged.

The Pistons (10-7), who came into the game attempting 34.5 threes per game (6th highest in the NBA), launched 41 shots from deep and made 16 to help them fend off the Suns, who made just eight of their own from long distance.

After scoring just four points through the first three quarters while being hounded by constant double teams, Blake Griffin came alive to score 12 fourth quarter points to seal the victory.

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Devin Booker got off to a hot start to keep Suns from falling behind, scoring 15 first quarter points, and the Suns continued a trend of strong starts to games by pulling ahead 32-27 at the end of the first quarter.

The Suns brought a lot of double teams at Blake Griffin and at times caused obvious frustration. Griffin did have six assists in the first half, but managed just four points and was pressured into four turnovers. Overall, the Suns defense in half court sets was active and nettlesome, effectively implementing their game plan to make Griffin (game high 11 assists) into a distributor.

Andre Drummond (19 points, 16 rebounds and five steals) is definitely too strong for DeAndre Ayton at this stage, but Ayton already appears to have touch around the basket that escapes Drummond. In a few years Ayton should be able to bridge that strength gap. Even at this stage, Ayton looked more ready to compete and hold his own against the Pistons’ All-Star center.

Ayton finished with 25 points and 13 rebounds, giving him four 20/10 games and 11 double-doubles on the season. His 25 points were a career high and he also matched a career high with three blocks.

Josh Jackson had an up and down game. In one sequence Jackson took a step back 20 foot jumper, then fouled a three point shooter on the next defensive set. Jackson actually made his shot, but that doesn’t make it a good shot. Some players do little things that help their team win games, Jackson is still doing little things to help his team lose.

T.J. Warren was ejected for losing his cool after committing an obvious offensive foul with 3:56 left in the second quarter and the Pistons leading 50-45. Regardless of frustration from other plays, Warren can’t let this happen. A first technical isn’t a huge deal there, but picking up both and the early shower is just not smart.

Jamal Crawford hit three consecutive three pointers in a stretch of just 48 seconds for the Suns to help cut the Pistons lead to only two points (62-60) entering halftime. Crawford scored his 19,000th career point during the flurry to end the second quarter.

After a tightly contested third quarter, the Pistons’ bench unit of Langston Galloway (15 points), Stanley Johnson (14 points), Zaza Pachulia (seven points and 10 rebounds) and Ish Smith (nine points and four assists) helped them surge ahead again. All four players were +12 or better in the game.

With the score tied at 88 early in the fourth quarter, Detroit went on a 10-1 run while Booker missed three shot attempts on the other end. The Pistons seemed to really tighten down on Booker and played much more physical defense, grabbing and pushing him to throw him out of his rhythm. Fatigue and frustration seem to be recurring themes for Booker in fourth quarters this season when defenses clamp down.

It was apparent for the team as a whole this game, as the Suns stumbled to 10 turnovers in the fourth quarter after only committing seven in the first three.

Booker hit a pair of three pointers later in the fourth, but it wasn’t enough to close the gap to within striking range. He finished with 37 points and five assists, marking only the second time this season he has recorded less than six assists.

In addition to Warren’s ejection, Trevor Ariza and Mikal Bridges were largely ineffective on the offensive end. The three starters scored just 13 points on 5-21 shooting.

The Suns now sit at 4-15, all alone with the second worst record in the NBA. They trail the Atlanta Hawks by just a game in the reverse standings and already seem to be moving closer to clinching the worst record in a stacked Western Conference.

The Suns head home to face the Indiana Pacers (11-8) on Tuesday.