Saturday, January 16

Slumping Pistons get red hot suns

The Detroit Pistons wanted to build a new identity as a brave, defensive-minded team.

They have a long way to go to achieve that goal. The Pistons are the worst defensive team in the league in terms of field goal percentage, allowing opponents to shoot 50.7 percent in their first eight games.

They’ll have to adjust that drastically to snap a three-game losing streak on Friday when they host the Phoenix Suns.

In a 130-115 loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday, the Pistons lost by double digits in the first three minutes and gave up 82 points in the first half.

” I know we didn’t have the proper focus for the start of the game or the start of the third and that was concerning,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. ” The rest of the game, we beat them.”

Part of the reason for the Pistons’ lack of defensive cohesion is that they are determined to give their rookies playing time. They lost their first pick, Killian Hayes, who is out indefinitely due to a hip injury. Hayes had started every game until he was injured Monday.

Saudi Bey posted the first double-double of his career with 20 points and 10 rebounds on Wednesday.

” He (Casey) threw us into the fire early, which was good, to get the experience,” Bey said.

Bey has scored double-digit points in four of the seven games he has played. Another first-round pick, Isaiah Stewart, averages 18.7 minutes in six appearances. With Hayes out of the game, second-round Saber Lee made his career debut Wednesday.

The Suns bounced back from a five-point loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday by defeating Toronto on Wednesday, 123-115.

Phoenix relied on shooting from the perimeter, knocking down 21 of 40 3-point attempts. The Suns guards did a superior job finding open shooters, as starters Chris Paul and Devin Booker combined for 14 assists. Backup Cameron Payne was even more generous, dishing 10 assists in just 16 minutes.

” He has a different team. He has a ‘pull’ to his game, and he’s a willing passer,” coach Monty Williams said of Payne. ” The thing about Cam’s passes is they are on time and on target. You rarely see him pass the ball high or low. I thought his passes were on point (Wednesday).”

The Suns paid a lot for free agent Jae Crowder, signing former Miami Heat forward for three years and $29.16 million during the abbreviated offseason. Crowder tied his season record with 21 points against the Raptors, and ran out 6 of his 9 3-point attempts.

” I think Jae notices,” Williams said. ” He’s one of those guys who know how to space, and he know how to read the defense when they close.”

The Suns are starting a three-game road swing that also includes stops at Indiana (Saturday) and Washington (Monday). They have won six of their first eight games, but Paul said the team is just beginning to build chemistry.

” It’s a very strange season,” Paul said. ” The guys didn’t get a chance to play before the season, there weren’t a lot of practice, so the games look a bit (disjointed) at the moment because the teams are trying to figure it out and play at the same time.

Detroit swept the two-game series last season from the Suns.

–Field level media

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