Slumping Pistons host red-hot Suns

NBA

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

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

They’ll need to tighten that up dramatically in order 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 trailed by double digits within the first three minutes and surrendered 82 first-half points.

“I know we didn’t have the appropriate approach to the start of the game or to the start of the third and that was concerning,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “The rest of the game, we outscored them.”

Part of the reason for the Pistons’ lack of cohesion defensively is that they’re intent on giving their rookies playing time. They’ve lost their top pick Killian Hayes, who’s out indefinitely due to a hip injury. Hayes had started every game until he was injured on Monday.

Saddiq Bey posted his first career double-double 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 posted double digits in points in four of the seven games he’s played. Another first-round pick, Isaiah Stewart, is averaging 18.7 minutes in six appearances. With Hayes sidelined, second-rounder Saben 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 perimeter shooting, knocking down 21 of 40 3-point attempts. The Suns guards did a superior job of finding open shooters, as starters Chris Paul and Devin Booker combined for 14 assists. Backup Cameron Payne was even more generous, dishing out 10 assists in just 16 minutes.

“He’s got a different gear. He’s got a ‘herky-jerkyness’ to his game and he’s a willing passer,” coach Monty Williams said of Payne. “The thing about Cam’s passes is that they’re 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 the former Miami Heat forward for three years and $29.16 million during the abbreviated offseason. Crowder tied his season high with 21 points against the Raptors, and he drained 6 of his 9 3-point attempts.

“I just think Jae figures it out,” Williams said. “He’s one of those guys who knows how to space and knows how to read the defense when they close out.”

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

“It’s a very odd season,” Paul said. “Guys didn’t get a chance to play pickup before the season, wasn’t a lot of practices, so the games somewhat look a little (disjointed) right now because 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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