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Game preview: Suns take on last-place Eastern Conference team, the Detroit Pistons

Can the Suns win for the fourth time in five games?

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NBA: Detroit Pistons at Sacramento Kings Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns (11-6) vs. Detroit Pistons (5-15)

When: 7:00 p.m. AZ Time

Where: Footprint Center, Phoenix, Arizona

Watch: Bally Sports AZ

Listen: 98.7 FM

DraftKings Betting Lines: Suns -12.5, O/U 225.5, Suns Moneyline -800


The Phoenix Suns face the Detroit Pistons in the first of two meetings between the teams this season Friday night at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. The game will be televised by Bally Sports AZ.

The Suns are coming off a 115-105 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers Tuesday, their third win in their last four games. All but one Phoenix starter (starting power forward Torrey Craig) scored in double figures in the game, and the Suns held off a 37-point, 21-rebound performance from Laker center Anthony Davis to secure the win.

The Suns are first place in the Western Conference even though starting point guard Chris Paul has missed their last seven games due to heel soreness and their opening-night starting power forward Cam Johnson has not played the last nine games and will be out for longer due to a right meniscus tear.

The Pistons are playing their sixth and final game of a West Coast road trip, in which they struggled but have recovered lately. Detroit is looking to extend a two-game winning streak — its first of the season — against the Suns after it beat the Denver Nuggets (110-108) Tuesday and the Utah Jazz (125-116) Wednesday.

Before its two most recent wins, the Pistons had lost seven straight games. They also had a streak of eight losses in nine games earlier this season.

Detroit is led statistically by forward Bojan Bogdanovic, who is averaging 20.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. Starting point guard Cade Cunningham, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, is averaging 19.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game though he is out for Friday’s game and an indefinite period of time due to a shin injury. Cunningham is feared to have a stress fracture in his shin, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania and James L. Edwards III.

Detroit has five other players averaging double figures in scoring: shooting guard Alec Burks (16.6 points per game); starting guard Jaden Ivey (16.2 points per game); starting forward Saddiq Bey (14.7 points per game); starting center Isaiah Stewart (12.0 points per game); and forward Marvin Bagley III (11.9 points per game), though Bagley has only played seven games this season.

Here are some of the notable statistics for each team provided by TeamRankings.

  • Points per game: Phoenix (No. 9, 115.1), Detroit (No. 20, 110.2)
  • Assists per game: Phoenix (No. 6, 27.7), Detroit (No. 28, 21.5)
  • Rebounds per game: Phoenix (No. 18, 52.0), Detroit (No. 16, 52.3)
  • Average scoring margin: Phoenix (No. 2, +7.3), Detroit (No. 29 (-7.7)
  • Offensive efficiency: Phoenix (No. 4), Detroit (No. 22)
  • Team shooting percentage: Phoenix (No. 11, 47.2), Detroit (No. 29, 44.0)
  • Effective field goal percentage: Phoenix (No. 12, 54.3), Detroit (No. 29, 50.2)
  • 3-point percentage: Phoenix (No. 5, 38.4), Detroit (No. 24, 33.4)
  • 2-point percentage: Phoenix (No. 23, 52.4), Detroit (No. 29, 50.3)
  • Blocks per game: Phoenix (No. 8, 5.9) Detroit (No. 27, 4.0)
  • Turnovers per game: Phoenix (No. 5, 13.6), Detroit (No. 7, 14.1)
  • Opponent points per game: Phoenix (No. 6, 107.8), Detroit (No. 28, 117.9)
  • Opponent shooting percentage: Phoenix (No. 7, 45.5), Detroit (No. 26, 48.4)
  • Opponent effective field-goal percentage: Phoenix (No. 6, 52.3), Detroit (No. 24, 55.0)
  • Opponent 3-point percentage: Phoenix (No. 25, 37.6), Detroit (No. 9, 34.6)
  • Opponent 2-point percentage: Phoenix (No. 4, 49.9), Detroit (No. 25, 56.8)
  • Opponent total rebounds per game: Phoenix (No. 9, 50.3), Detroit (No. 22, 53.0)

Likely Starting Lineups

Suns

G Cameron Payne

G Devin Booker

F Mikal Bridges

F Torrey Craig

C Deandre Ayton

Pistons

G Killian Hayes (QUESTIONABLE)

G Jaden Ivey (QUESTIONABLE)

F Bojan Bogdanovic

F Isaiah Livers

C Marvin Bagley III

Out/Injured

Phoenix:

  • Cam Johnson (right knee) is OUT
  • Chris Paul (heel soreness) is OUT
  • Landry Shamet (concussion) is OUT
  • Jae Crowder (making burner accounts) is NOT WITH TEAM

Detroit:

  • Killian Hayes (calf) is QUESTIONABLE
  • Hamidou Diallo (non-COVID illness) is QUESTIONABLE
  • Jaden Ivey (right knee soreness) is QUESTIONABLE
  • Isaiah Stewart (toe) is OUT
  • Saddiq Bey (sprained right ankle) is OUT
  • Cade Cunningham (shin) is OUT

Uniform Matchup

Courtesy of lockervision.nba.com

What to Watch For

The Suns are facing a Pistons team that has struggled but had two impressive victories against the Nuggets and Jazz who are ranked second and fourth in the Western Conference, respectively.

Detroit will be without three usual starters (Cunningham, Bey and Stewart), but they are coached by Dwane Casey, previously the 2019 NBA Coach of the Year who helped lead the Toronto Raptors to three consecutive 51-plus win seasons from 2015-16 to 2017-18.

The Pistons have struggled under Casey’s four-year tenure, winning 20 games (twice) and 23 games in its previous four seasons. But Detroit is still a scrappy team, especially with Bagley III in the frontcourt, that gave the Nuggets and Jazz fits by getting to the free-throw line 14 and 27 times.

The Pistons will be short-handed and could be even more so from their last two games with Ivey and Hayes listed as questionable, but as always against teams viewed as inferior, the Suns should not take their foot off the gas pedal.

Fun Fact

The Suns and the Pistons have played 141 times in their history dating back to the 1968-69 season. Detroit leads the all-time series 71-70 but the Suns have won the last three meetings dating back to the 2020-21 season.

Keys to a Suns Win

Bogdanovic will be a tough guard with his ability to score from the 3-point line and play inside with physicality, so the Suns will have to slow him. Bagley III also has the ability to play inside-out and has a clear size advantage (6-foot-10 versus 6-foot-7) against Craig, so Phoenix will have to find ways to neutralize that threat.

Payne — who has thrived in six games as a starter, averaging 18.9 points, 6.4 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game while shooting 43.9 percent from the field and 44.7 percent from 3-point range — has another opportunity to step up especially if the Pistons have multiple guards out. He has keyed the Suns’ offense without Paul and will need to do so again for the Suns to win.

Last, Phoenix will need to simply take care of business against Detroit. The Pistons have battled injuries but still have not been a good team this season, in large part since they do not share the ball well and have yet to mesh newer players. The Suns, meanwhile, have had continuity and synergy from the last three seasons and need to show that Friday night.

Prediction

Detroit is coming off two impressive victories over the Nuggets and Jazz and will be looking to close their road trip with another win over a top-tier Western Conference team. The Suns, however, are starting to find their groove even without Paul and Johnson and are in a stretch with six games at home in seven contests.

The Pistons will provide a good effort but the Suns will do enough to win for the fourth time in their last five games.

Suns 118, Pistons 103

When the game is over, join the Suns JAM Session Podcast as we discuss the game live on YouTube.

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