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Game Preview: Suns hope to get their engine going again in the Motor City

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It could be another difficult night with six Suns players on the injured list again.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns @ Detroit Pistons

When: 5:00 pm (Phoenix time)

Where: Little Caesars Arena - Detroit, Michigan

TV: Fox Sports Arizona

Radio: 98.7 FM


After a disheartening loss in Brookyln, the Suns are still on the road for a game tonight with the equally down on their luck Detroit Pistons.

Detroit had been showing some slow but steady progress until this season. In 2018-19, they finished 41-41 and made it back to the Eastern Conference playoffs as an 8th seed after making it in only once before in the previous 9 seasons. This year they - like the Suns - have had injury problems that have played a part in keeping them at the fringe of the EC playoff race but still on the outside looking in.

Unlike the Suns, they may have peaked and rumors have abounded about them possibly blowing up their roster and attempting to start over again. These rumors started back in early January when it was announced that former All-Star Blake Griffin had season ending surgery for a nagging knee problem.

As tonight is the last night before the Feb. 6 NBA trade deadline, it’s possible that not even all of the healthy players on both squads will be active tonight which could make for an even more interesting evening.

The Pistons (18-34)

Team Stats: OffRtg - 109.2 (19th), DefRtg - 111.6 (22nd), NetRtg - minus-2.4 (21st)

Probable Starting Lineup: Reggie Jackson, Bruce Brown, Tony Snell, Sekou Doumbouya, Andre Drummond

Injury Report: Blake Griffin (knee) - Out, Luke Kennard (knee) - Out, Khyri Thomas (foot) Out, Derrick Rose (hip) - Out, Svi Mykhailiuk (hip) - Out, Markieff Morris (hip) - Game Time Decision.

Andre Drummond is still a beast in the paint averaging 17.5 ppg and pulling down a league leading 15.8 rpg. Derrick Rose is leading the Pistons in scoring (18.5 ppg) and assists (5.8 apg) but may be out after he strained his left adductor on Sunday in a win against Denver.

Detroit has plenty of good three-point shooters and average 37.1% from three for the season (5th). They have 7 guys averaging 37.2% or better from three and 3 of those are averaging over 40%. As a team, they’re not among the league leaders in attempts (31.7 per game, 19th) and take roughly the same amount of shots from three as do the Suns (31.6 attempts per game) but the Suns make only 34.5% of their attempts (24th). The Suns’ percentage has improved slightly as of late (to 35.2% over the last 10 games) but their attempts have fallen way off (25.3, 30th).

The Pistons also have 7 players averaging over 10 ppg so opposing teams can’t concentrate on stopping any one player as a defensive strategy, unlike the Suns who usually rely on Devin Booker putting up big scoring numbers to get a win.

Pace could also be an issue in this game as Detroit prefers to play at a much slower pace (98.9, 24th) than the Suns (102.3, 9th).

The Suns (20-30)

Team Stats: OffRtg - 109.5 (17th), DefRtg - 110.6 (18th), NetRtg - minus-1.0 (15th)

Probable Starting Lineup: Ricky Rubio, Devin Booker, Kelly Oubre Jr., Mikal Bridges, Deandre Ayton

Injury Report: Frank Kaminsky (kneecap) - Out, Cameron Johnson (quadriceps) - Out, Aron Baynes (hip) - Out, Tyler Johnson (knee) - Out, Dario Saric (ankle) - Out, Ty Jerome (calf) - Out.

The good news for the Suns is that their starting lineup is healthy (unless you still count Dario Saric as their starting PF). Over the last 10 games, the Suns’ starters have combined for 88.2 points per game (2nd most in the NBA) while Detroit’s starters have combined for only 62.3 ppg (29th). Bench scoring has been a completely different story though as the Pistons’ bench has been putting up 48 ppg (3rd) and the Suns’ bench has put up a paltry 22.4 ppg (30th). With so many players ruled out for this game, the Suns’ starters are going to have to log extra minutes to stay in this one.

Devin Booker will need to bounce back from his rough night against Brooklyn (11 pts, 21.4% FG) to keep this from being another difficult evening for the Suns. Phoenix just does not have enough reliable firepower for their leading scorer to have a bad night and still get a win.

Deandre Ayton will also need to at least hold his own against Drummond tonight. Andre outweighs Ayton by about 30 pounds but Deandre is more mobile. He can’t try to avoid contact with Drummond and rely on jumpers and finesse moves on offense all night though and he will have at least fight to maintain his position for rebounds.

Ricky Rubio will need to try and get back his passing mojo as his assists over his last eight games have dropped to 5.3 per game, well down from his season average of 8.6.

Detroit is actually a little worse at guarding the paint than the Suns (Pistons give up 52.2 points in the paint per game vs 49.8 for the Suns) so the Suns shouldn’t shy away from taking the ball inside although they shouldn’t rely on that approach either.

Summary

I like the Suns’ chances in this game but I’ve been fooled before. With so many players out with injuries for both teams, it makes this one tough to call. I do prefer the Suns’ projected starting lineup to that of the Pistons though so I’m going to predict that they come out on top.

If the Pistons get really hot from three tonight, all bets are off but...

I think the Suns will come out on top 108-105.