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Pistons vs. Suns preview: Brace yourselves for David and Goliath in the desert

The Pistons look to snap their seven-game skid against the red-hot Suns

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns are the hottest (pun intended) team in the NBA, winners of a ridiculous 17-straight games.

The Detroit Pistons are... not. In fact, the Pistons are the coldest team in the NBA, losers of seven-straight games.

I hope you’re ready for a late night butt-kicking tonight as Detroit wraps up its five-game road trip in Phoenix tonight. It’s been a demoralizing trip because, when the Pistons left Detroit before Thanksgiving, they looked to be trending up a bit.

They’d beaten the Indiana Pacers convincingly, lost in the final seconds to the Golden State Warriors and pushed the Los Angeles Lakers to the brink in an emotional game that, frankly, I’m tired of talking about.

They blew another against the Miami Heat, sputtering out in the fourth quarter.

From there, it’s gotten ugly.

They hit the road and the Milwaukee Bucks waxed them as they normally do, then the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers took turns beating them before the Portland Trailblazers handed them another blowout loss, despite a career night from Cade Cunningham.

And the Pistons reward for it all? A matchup with the defending Western Conference champs, a team coming off a win over, perhaps, the best team in basketball in the Warriors.

Game Vitals

Where: Footprint Center in Phoenix, AZ

When: Thursday, December 2, 2021 at 9:00 pm EST

Watch: Bally Sports Detroit / NBA League Pass

Odds: Pistons (+11.5)

Analysis

It’s not all bad.

The Pistons will avoid one of their “Ghosts of NBA Draft’s Past” in Devin Booker tonight. The Suns star guard suffered a hamstring injury against the Warriors earlier this week and is out for a few games. Detroit still has to deal with Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges, though.

Phoenix just does everything so well. Paul is still a maestro with the ball and, surrounded by young, athletic talent at pretty much every position, he doesn’t need to do everything. He’s still capable, though, don’t get it twisted. Killian Hayes has his work cut out for him.

However, Bridges is the most interesting player to me. He’s really evolved into an elite one-on-one defender, a top-flight perimeter lockdown artist who can hang with anything from point guards to power forward. With Booker out, I’d expect we see him flex more of his offensive muscle against a Pistons team that has trouble guarding big wings.

Ayton is the other problem spot for the Pistons. He’s big and strong, and I know Isaiah Stewart has the tenacity and grit to make life hard for him tonight, but big, bouncy centers are his kryptonite. Ayton has scored 20+ in four of six meetings with the Pistons in his career, though he mustered just 22 total points in two matchups last year.

But with Bridges on the wing, expect a challenging evening for Cunningham. He looked great against the Trailblazers but this is going to be a rare elite defender-glued-to-you matchup for him.

Theoretically, it opens the door for Saddiq Bey to have some open looks, but with his propensity for dribbling into bad looks this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up as another blowout where Jerami Grant shoots it a million times.

Lineups

Phoenix Suns (18-3): Chris Paul, Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, Jae Crowder, Deandre Ayton

Detroit Pistons (4-17): Killian Hayes, Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, Jerami Grant, Isaiah Stewart

Question of the Day

Aside from winning, what can the Pistons do tonight to salvage this road trip?