Game Tips at 7:30 P.M. EST
Phoenix Suns: 20-21 (9-12 road)
Detroit Pistons: 15-28 (11-9 home)
The last time the Pistons beat the Phoenix Suns, they did so on 32 points from Chauncey Billups and 23 from Rasheed Wallace. Three very long, very troubled years later, and the "new look" Pistons haven't shown much fight when playing these Phoenix Suns. They've lost five straight to Phoenix by an average margin of 17 points, including a 17-point loss on New Years Eve this season. Will tonight be any different? It's safe to say that Detroit has their work cut out for them...
It's looking like that Orlando/Washington three-way has worked out well for Phoenix. After struggling at first, the Suns have won 5 straight-- and a win tonight will officially earn Phoenix a .500 record. They're rolling on a string of solid games out of Steve Nash (averaging 19, 14 and 5 over this stretch) and Channing Frye (hit 7 threes against Washington last night), who are supported by a rotation of role players that are passing around the hot hand. Even if they pick up a .500 record tonight, they'll still be about as far from the 8th seed in the West as Detroit is in the East.
Even without Stoudemire or D'Antoni, the Suns are still the worst defensive team in the league (according to John Hollinger, at least). If you ignore the pace factor, they're just as bad as the Pistons, as both teams are currently allowing 48% shooting from the field from their opponents. The difference, obviously, is that the Suns have one of the top offenses in the league, scoring 106.8 points per game-- second only to Denver's 107.1. The Suns are proof positive that you can ignore defense and still be a winning team in the NBA... so long as your offense is amongst the best.
How to Win This Game:
On defense, you're going to need to take care of the perimeter. Phoenix hit 12 three-pointers on 44% shooting against Detroit last month, and they've become even deadlier of late thanks to Channing Frye finding his shot. Frye is shooting 46% from three in January, including 7-11 last night in Washington. This has stretched the opposition, providing Steve Nash with more room to operate and more penetration from Vince Carter and Grant Hill. How do you defend this? While it certainly didn't work out to start the season, tonight is the perfect night to give Austin Daye minutes at the 4. His length and ability to block shots from the wing could neutralize Frye's impact on the game.
If you can't bring your own offense to the table against Phoenix, you might as well stay at home. Detroit lost to Phoenix last month on 41% shooting from the field, 25% from three and just 44% at the stripe-- collecting only 8 points from the line that night. Missing fifteen shots from three and ten free throws were decisive here, because Detroit put up a pretty impressive performance in the paint. This might be a point of focus for Detroit's offense tonight.
Detroit can find the advantage once again by operating inside. Stuckey cuts to the basket, McGrady/Monroe pick and rolls, and Wilcox/CV post-ups should take precedence over 3-point shooting unless there's a hot hand. Most importantly, burning shot clock is going to be a waste tonight, so let's quit it with the dribble-to-half-court, pass-to-tayshaun, burn-five-seconds-then-shoot-a-contested-jumper-if-mcgrady-isn't-open nonsense. Also, let's see a bit more of Monroe on offense, yeah? Not just on cleanup and
dunks lay-ups, but let's put him in the high post and pass him the ball instead of using Tay as facilitator. Hey, it'll at least be fun to watch.
Question of the Game:
Will the new starting lineup bounce back from a beating in New Jersey last night, or will the Suns continue to roll over the Pistons in the sixth blowout in a row?