Coverage Begins: 8:00 PM ET on ESPN
Phoenix: 27-21 (13-11 road)
Margin: +1.5 ppg (+0.3 last 25%)
Pistons: 27-21 (14-11 home)
Margin: Even (-1.5 last 25%)
Who thought Shaquille O'Neal would emerge as the Suns' most productive player? Alas, the run and gun Suns are no more. So, too, are the Suns who perennial threaten to emerge from the Western Conference. Little wonder, then, that the Suns have emerged as the team most likely to make a deal at the trade deadline.
The most startling aspect of the Suns mediocre (for them) season has been the decline of Steve Nash. Nash, who thrived under coach Mike D'Antoni, has reverted to his Dallas Mavericks form. Further, Amare Stoudemire has famously struggled to find a role in a slow offense alongside a lumbering center.
On a positive note, Jason Richardson seems to be finding his groove, averaging 24 per game over his last three. In fact, the team still ranks among the top five in offensive efficiency, so going through Shaq has its advantages.
The real problem is on the defensive end, where the aging Suns have trouble matching up. Making matters worse, the Suns traded their best defensive player for Richardson. As such, you have a middling team that can either score or allow 120 points on any given night. Of course, if tonight is like last night, both may occur.
Detroit and Phoenix are being mentioned in trade talks, so you can bet both GMs will be watching the game closely.
Keys for Detroit:
Get Maxiell and Johnson involved: The two big men combined for 24 minutes last night, and fresh legs will be in short supply. Each has six fouls to give on Shaq, who cannot be allowed to dominate the way he did in the team's previous matchup.
Up the tempo: Playing at the league's second slowest pace doesn't make any sense with this roster under normal circumstances. Against the Suns, doing so is tantamount to a forfeit.
And, since it's Sunday...
Shoot the ball at your own basket: Shots scored on the opponents basket count for the other team. While it might be tempting to simply take the available open shot, it is highly recommended that teams go to the other side of the floor on offense, attempting to score on their own basket. NOTE: At halftime, teams "switch sides" meaning that the opponents basket now becomes your team's basket. For clarification as to which basket you should aim the ball, ask the referee or check with the scorers table.
Question of the game:
What happened to Rodney Stuckey? He was our best player for a considerable stretch, but seems to have wilted under the pressure.