The best in the West vs. the least in the East. On paper this matchup was destined for a lopsided result. We don’t live on paper. Phoenix traveled to the Motor City on Friday evening and despite going up by 23, were outscored 62-49 in the second half/OT, and lose 110-105/
One positive we can take from playing in the Central Time Zone are games that start at 5:00pm. Does it throw you off of your Suns viewership schedule? Certainly. But like a Sunday afternoon Diamondbacks game or an early Sunday Cardinals game, when the action is over, you’re excited you have extra time in the day to discuss what you have absorbed.
Shameless plug: that’s what we do after every game on the Suns JAM Session Podcast, so it’s nice going live after the game around 7:30pm rather than 9:30pm.
With the first game of a back-to-back against the worst team in the league (by record), you hoped for a blow out. You hoped that this team would come out, impose their will, and put their foot on the struggling Pistons’ neck.
Early turnovers would prevent the Suns’ first team unit from sprinting out to an early lead; they had 6 turnovers in the first 9 minutes of play. Enter the Suns Super Second Squad.
A quick 6 from Dario, a hesitation layup by Cam Payne, a few forced turnovers, and the Suns were up 9 after one quarter of play.
One intriguing matchup was Devin Booker vs. Josh Jackson. Jackson was a late addition to the Pistons lineup, making his first ever appearance against the team that drafted him. The two found themselves matched up early and often.
Devin Booker has Josh Jackson in the torture chamber right now.— Zona (@AZSportsZone) January 9, 2021
Booker seemed to take delight in playing against his former teammate. He challenged him offensively, spinning him around and rising above to hit a jumper. Defensively Booker posted his third block on a drive by Jackson. Josh ended the game with 5 points and 2 boards.
The second team continued to widen the lead in the early stages of the second as former Piston Langston Galloway decided to show up. And he did. Big.
Was this a revenge game for him? The Pistons chose not to bring him back this past offseason and he made his way to Phoenix, signing a 1 year, $2M contract in November.
Galloway was simmering, then cooking, and then downright en fuego in the second quarter. He scored 17 points on 6-7 from the field, including 5-6 from downtown.
BOOM!!— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) January 9, 2021
How about Langston Galloway folks? pic.twitter.com/Ogt3yGSBEw
The Pistons responded with a 9-0 run following the Langston onslaught and a mid-second timeout. By the time Devin Booker stepped back onto the court with 5 minutes, the Suns were up 14. Book’s first play back on the court resulted in his 4th turnover, a problem Devin continues to try to shake.
It would be interesting to see how Phoenix would respond to having such a large lead. The second team has regularly put the Suns in a position to succeed. In this game they pushed the lead to 23 points. The challenge has been having the first team sustain that lead.
True to form, they didn’t.
The Pistons closed the first half on a 17-2 scoring run and the Suns went to the locker room up 8.
(This Suns starting 5 still isn't meshing yet)— Gerald Bourguet (@GeraldBourguet) January 9, 2021
Second half adjustments have been a strength of the Suns through the first 8 games of the season. The job Monty Williams and his staff has done relative to the analyzing what they viewed in the first half and adjusting accordingly should be commended.
You saw an adjustment almost instantly.
Ayton starts the half with a post stop followed by a seal as Paul keeps Plumlee out of the transition play and finds DA— Brendon Kleen (@BrendonKleen14) January 9, 2021
Adjustments go both ways, however. Detroit was attacking the rim early and often in the fist quarter with Jerami Grant and Delon Wright. Pistons coach Dwane Casey chose to reinforce that strategy early in the third.
Foul trouble for the Suns reared it’s ugly head once again as Detroit’s adjustment worked. The Suns were in the penalty with 7:47 left in the third and up 10 points. The Piston’s took advantage, shooting 12-12 tied the game with 3:22 left in the third.
FT shooting:— Sam Cooper (@scooperhoops) January 9, 2021
Comical. Can't blame anyone but yourself for that, and now the game is tied.
Conversely, the Suns continued to display their inability to get to the line. An offense built on finesse and passing, cutting and shooting, still has not found a way to impose their will on the interior. They do not put the opposition in precarious situations and force the issues that would result in free throws. When they finally did, they we’re capitalizing. Phoenix shot 6-13 from the line on Friday.
You put teams away by putting them in foul trouble and avoiding it yourself.
The Suns didn't make a point from the charity stripe until there was 1:25 left in the third. Thanks Cam Johnson. Suns up by 4 at the end of three.
Now seems like a good time for the Suns to stop screwing around.— 1 seed (@SoSaysJ) January 9, 2021
The three-pointer, a point of strength early in the game for Phoenix, was a primary contributing factor to letting the Pistons back in the game. The Suns had a stretch in when they shot 2-25 from beyond the arc from the late second into the fourth quarter.
We know that this team has the affinity for the three. They average more 3PA than any team in Suns history. The old adage of “live by the three, die by the three” made this game too close for too long.
The fourth became a battle of attrition. The Suns would carry the lead for the majority of the quarter but found themselves tested often. Detroit once again put the Suns in foul trouble midway through the 4th.
Detroit took the lead with 2:36 left.
Just win.... don’t care what it looks like at this point— Dan Duarte (@DDuarte89) January 9, 2021
Monty deployed a closing lineup of CP3, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, and Deandre Ayton.
Cam, who replaced Dario Saric, fortified Monty’s decision to put him in late. He hit a big three to put the Suns up 2. Following a block by Johnson, Bridges cut for a running layup to put the Suns up 4 with 1:29.
Cam Johnson should have never come out.— Mike Vigil (@protectedpick) January 9, 2021
Detroit cut it 2 following two more free throws by Jerami Grant. With 18.1, down 2 and with possession of the ball, the Pistons called timeout and drew up the play, and tied the game on a Mason Plumlee dunk.
Devin Booker took the final shot for Phoenix but it went a little long. For the first time this season, the Suns head to overtime. Not what you want on night on of a back-to-back.
Detroit went up 7 quick. Two shots by rookie Saddiq Bey, one of which was from deep, but the Suns in a tough spot down 100-93.
A 7-0 Pistons run to begin OT. Suns now on a 3-of-31 streak of shooting from deep.— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) January 9, 2021
The Suns had their work cut out for them. They battled back to cut the Pistons lead to 3, 106-103. It was too little, too late.
Jerami Grant proved to be too much for the Suns. His 31 points and 10 boards, capped off by a corner three that put Detroit up by 6.
Tonight felt as if the Suns were playing the back end of a back-to-back, not the front. The team went cold offensively in the 2nd half. 37 points in the half, after scoring 29 in the first quarter, isn’t going to cut it.
Foul trouble carried over into the extra period as Booker and Ayton were hit with offensive fouls.
The poor shooting from deep (32.7%). The turnovers (20). The three throw disparity (Suns 13 FTA, Pistons 27 FTA).
This was game one of a back-to-back, with the next game occurring tomorrow evening against the Indiana Pacers.
Domantas Sabonis has been spectacular this season and his nightly averages of 20.8 points, 11.4 rebounds, 6.4 assists on 57.7% shooting will be challenging. The Pacers are currently 6-2. Their only losses have been to the Boston Celtics and the (surprisingly) spry New York Knickerbockers.
See you tomorrow night Suns fans.