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Pistons vs. Suns preview: Detroit seeks consecutive wins against the NBA’s best

Detroit eyes Phoenix for win number six in 2022.

Detroit Pistons v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Fresh off an impressive victory against the Toronto Raptors, Detroit has it targets set on the league leading Phoenix Suns. The 10-31 Pistons have the chance to win back-to-back games for the third time in as many weeks.

After winning a season-best 18 games in a row, the Suns have somewhat come back down to earth, going 6-4 in their last 10. However, they enter Detroit fresh off a couple of impressive road victories against the in-form Toronto Raptors and the feisty Indiana Pacers.

Game Vitals

Where: Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, MI
When: Sunday, January 16 at 1:00 pm
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit
Odds: Pistons (+11.5)

Analysis

Per Cleaning the Glass, Detroit has shot 63% or higher at the rim in 17 games total this season. In those 17 games, the Pistons have gone 9-8; in fact, the win over the Raptors on Friday night, marked a season-high for finishing at the rim, with a conversion rate of 76.9%. Hence, in order for Detroit to have a shot at knocking off the best team in the league, they will need to continue the trend of efficient scoring in the paint.

Detroit’s prized rookie, Cade Cunningham will need to be in the driver’s seat of a paint-attacking Piston squad. The 20 year-old has been on a tear of his own lately, scoring double digits in points at the cup in two of his past three outings, something he has done only four times this season.

Encouragingly, the aforementioned games of 10+ points at the rim, have all occurred within Cunningham’s past 14 games. It’s been a welcomed sight to see the number one overall pick attacking the basket as of late. Not only does it open up things for Cunningham, but his drives to the basket provide his teammates with better scoring opportunities.

On the other hand, the visiting Phoenix Suns do most of their damage from outside the restricted area. Per NBA.com, the Suns are in the bottom three for field goals made within five feet of the basket.

Coach Monty Williams’ offense shies away from the modern-day analytics based attack of lay-ups and threes. Instead, they have built an offense which features their star players strengths of mid-range shooting and pick & roll play.

The Sun’s are in the top-3 of the league for field goals made between 5-19 feet, in large part due to their backcourt duo of Chris Paul and Devin Booker. The All Star duo’s elite ability to score in the mid-range, allows the Phoenix Suns to have a top-8 offense, while still featuring a heavy dose of ‘the least efficient shot in basketball’.

The duo of Booker and Paul have lead the Suns to a league leading 32-9 record and will more than likely be rewarded with their 3rd and 12th respective All Star appearances.

James Jones Jr. and the Phoenix Suns front-office have done a great job of building one of, if not the most, well-rounded rosters in the association. In consecutive off-seasons, Phoenix were able to add valuable role players via the NBA Draft. Starting in 2018 with their starting center Deandre Ayton, who was followed by wing pair; Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson, in the 2019 and 2020 drafts.

Ayton and Bridges in particular, had break out seasons during the Sun’s Finals season a year ago, boosting their value around the league. Ayton has been a topic of constant discussion amongst Piston fans, as there have been reports that the former number one overall pick is at the top of Detroit’s free agency list for this offseason:

Finally, there has been some positive news relating to the health status of Detroit’s veteran duo of Grant and Olynyk. The Athletics James Edwards III reported that while there is still no timeline for a Grant return, the cast has been removed from his injured hand. Edwards III also noted that Olynyk has been ‘upgraded’ to doubtful for tonight’s game against the Suns:

Lineups

Phoenix Suns (32-9):

Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, Deandre Ayton

Detroit Pistons (10-31):

Killian Hayes, Cade Cunningham, Hamidou Diallo, Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart

Question of the game

Is Devin Booker the best ‘Michigan born’ player in the NBA today?