The Phoenix Suns had found their groove in recent games.
Previously struggling with four losses in six games due to injuries to starting point guard Chris Paul and starting forward Cameron Johnson, the Suns won two straight and reascended to first place in the Western Conference. Phoenix, which is in the midst of seven home games over a nine-contest stretch, only has more opportunities to improve before Paul returns from heel soreness.
Friday against the Detroit Pistons, the Suns had a chance to extend their streak against the worst team in the Eastern Conference. Detroit was without four regular starters — point guard Cade Cunningham, guard Jaden Ivey, forward Saddiq Bey and center Isaiah Stewart — giving Phoenix an even better chance to win one day after Thanksgiving.
After struggling in the first half while shooting 3-of-17 (17.6 percent) from 3-point range, the Suns (12-6) had a much stronger second half and closed out the Pistons (5-16) 108-102 Friday night at the Footprint Center in Phoenix in the 37th consecutive Suns’ sellout.
Phoenix built a lead as large as nine points in the fourth quarter after it trailed 54-53 at halftime. Its lead dropped to one point with 4:53 left in the period after an 8-0 run from the Pistons, but it scored five straight points and never saw its lead fall below two possessions after a put-back dunk from starting center Deandre Ayton to give it a 102-97 lead with 1:34 to go.
The Suns’ first half included some rust which may have been from the Thanksgiving holiday. Phoenix shot 20-of-47 (42.6 percent) from the field, and outside of an effective first half from starting center Deandre Ayton (12 points and six rebounds), other Suns struggled. Starting forward Mikal Bridges notably struggled and shot 0-of-8 from the field.
However, it did not take long for the Suns to find their groove in the third quarter. They went on a 9-4 run to take the lead, 62-60, with 9:30 left in the period. They later had a 9-0 run to build the largest lead of eight points with 3:27 left in the quarter.
Phoenix sealed its victory by outscoring Detroit 24-23 in the fourth quarter, including a 14-9 run to close the game.
Ayton led the Suns with a season-high 28 points on 11-of-13 shooting with 12 rebounds and two blocks. Phoenix starting shooting guard Devin Booker had 21 points on 8-of-17 shooting, seven rebounds and five assists, though he uncharacteristically went 3-of-7 from the free-throw line after he shot 85.4 percent to this point of the season.
Phoenix starting point guard Cameron Payne (16 points on 7-of-12 shooting) and starting forward Mikal Bridges (15 points on 6-of-17 shooting) also finished in double figures. Bridges had all 15 of his points in the second half after an 0-of-8 shooting start.
Here is more on how the game unfolded, along with the final statistics.
The Suns defeated the Pistons, 108-102, for their third consecutive victory.
Phoenix won the fourth quarter 24-23 and finished Friday’s game shooting 42-of-87 (48.3 percent) from the field and 7-of-29 (24.1 percent) from 3-point range. The Suns shot 4-of-12 from 3-point range in the second half.
Phoenix built its largest lead of the game to nine points after a dunk from backup guard Damion Lee, 94-85 with 7:11 to go. However, Detroit responded with an eight-point run, which included four free throws, a 3-pointer from backup forward Kevin Knox II and a dunk from backup guard Hamidou Diallo.
The Suns scored the next five points before Detroit responded to cut the lead to 99-97 with 2:49 to go. However, Booker made a free throw and Ayton’s follow-up dunk gave Phoenix a five-point advantage.
Phoenix led 104-98 after a floater from Payne with 1:03 left, and after a layup from Detroit’s Bojan Bogdanovic, Bridges made a pull-up shot after Bogdanovic tripped over Suns starting forward Mikal Bridges’ ankle, which appeared to be a scary injury for him. Pistons backup guard Alec Burks made a shot before Ayton hit two free throws to seal the win for the Suns.
The Suns started to break away in this period.
Trailing 56-53 early in the third quarter, Phoenix went on a 9-4 run to take a 62-60 lead — its first advantage of the half — with 9:30 left in the period.
After a 3-pointer from Bagley III with 5:42 left in the quarter, the Suns went on a 9-0 spurt, which included two 3-pointers from Bridges, a free throw from Payne and a lay-in from Ayton to give them an 81-73 lead with 3:27 left in the period, which was also their largest advantage in the game to that point.
Detroit responded with a 6-0 run but Booker hit a 3-pointer to give the Suns an 84-79 lead with 1:33 left in the quarter.
Bridges, who missed his first eight shots, had 13 points in the quarter on 5-of-7 shooting. Ayton had eight points in the period, and Booker had seven.
Four Suns players (Payne, Booker, Bridges and Ayton) were in double figures in scoring when the third quarter ended. Bridges had 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the quarter after he shot 0-of-8 in the first half.
Detroit won the second quarter 32-30 and led Phoenix at halftime, 54-53.
It was a tough half offensively for the Suns. They shot 20-of-47 overall (42.6 percent) and 3-of-17 (17.6 percent) from 3-point range. Phoenix made nine of its 22 (40.9 percent) shot attempts in the second quarter and two of 10 (20 percent) 3-point shots.
Ayton had two points and one rebound in the second quarter after his stellar start. Booker led all Suns players in the period with nine points and had 13 points, three rebounds and two assists at halftime on 5-of-8 shooting (1-of-3 from 3-point range). However, Booker — an 85 percent free-throw shooter this season — shot just 1-of-4 from the free-throw line in the first half.
Payne was also in double figures at halftime with 12 points — six of which came in the second quarter — on 6-of-8 shooting with three assists. Phoenix, which entered Friday’s game ranked No. 6 in the NBA in assists per game (27.7), assisted just 10 of 20 shots made at halftime.
Detroit went on a 7-2 run to take a 17-10 lead with 4:41 left in the first quarter, but the Suns responded with a 9-0 spurt to retake the lead at 21-17, capped off by a 3-pointer from backup guard Duane Washington Jr.
The Suns led 23-22 after the first quarter. Ayton had 10 first-quarter points on 5-of-6 shooting with five rebounds. Phoenix shot 11-of-25 from the field (1-of-7 from 3-point range) with 12 rebounds and eight assists as a team.
Payne had six points and three assists and Booker had four points, two rebounds and an assist with two personal fouls.
Bogdanovic had nine points to lead the Pistons on 4-of-6 shooting, followed by Hayes with six points on 3-of-5 shooting with three rebounds. Detroit shot 10-of-22 from the field and 2-of-5 from 3-point range.