After a stunning victory last night against the Los Angeles Clippers, a huge win on the road against one of the supposed powerhouse teams of the West while playing without Steve Nash and Grant Hill, the Phoenix Suns will return home tonight to close out their final game of a back-to-back-to-back series against the Detroit Pistons.
The 21-22 Suns will be looking to go undefeated over their second and final three-games-in-three-nights stretch, and most importantly to officially return to the playoff discussion by reaching the .500 mark milestone for the first time since they were 4-4 to start the season. On the other hand, the 16-27 Pistons are also surging of late going 4-1 over their last five games, and after playing their best game of the season (offensively) on Wednesday night when they shot over 58% from the field in their 124-112 win against the Sacramento Kings.
The Suns have won the last three home games in a row against the Pistons, and after resting their two veteran stars last night they should be in prime position to close out their three game stretch at home with another victory. But the Suns can't make the mistake of taking this Pistons team lightly. In order to win tonight, the Suns will have to come out focused and ready to take care of business against a dangerous Pistons team who is looking to make a statement of their own.
Read on after the jump for a breakdown of what to expect tonight...
Here's a look at the Pistons
|Walker Russell Jr.||21||14.4||1.1||3.6||31.6||0.1||0.5||27.3||0.4||0.7||60.0||0.3||0.7||1.0||2.3||1.0||0.7||0.0||1.0||2.9|
Looking at these stats, the first thing that jumps out to me is how Greg Monroe is their leading scorer. I knew the sophomore center was having a very productive year, but I didn't realize that he was now the very backbone of the team averaging 16.6 points, 9.9 rebounds per game. The Pistons back-court combo of Knight and Stuckey is probably one of the most underrated in the league, with both players able to switch between running the point or playing off the ball, giving their offense versatility and a lot of scoring.
Not only that, but Brandon Knight, their rookie point guard has done very well since taking over the duties on running the point in the starting line-up, while Rodney Stuckey has been a better fit at the two-guard position and has scored 35 and 29 points over the his last two games. Knight also racked up a career high 11 assists in their last game against the Kings, something he is capable of doing more consistently once he gets more comfortable running the offense.
Steve Nash vs. Brandon Knight - Knight is promising rookie point guard with nice skills all around who is still figuring out the game and gaining confidence along the way. Knight posted his second double-double of the season Wednesday against the Kings scoring 10 points and dishing 11 assists, and he is more than capable of putting up stats like this on a regular basis. But Steve Nash is already everything a young point guard could ever hope to be, and with plenty of rest after sitting out during the Suns' impressive win against the Clippers last night, he should be ready to show the young rookie a thing or two. (Advantage Suns)
Grant Hill vs. Rodney Stuckey - Rodney Stuckey has become one of the most underrated combo guards in the league, and his prolific scoring recently has carried this Pistons team to a 5-2 record over their last 7 games where he has averaged over 25 points per game over that stretch. Grant Hill is one of the best all-around defenders in the league though, and when he is tasked with the responsibility of shutting down another team's top scorer he does it better than almost anyone else... Oh yeah, and he can also score a little bit himself too. Stuckey certainly isn't a player to take lightly, but especially since he was rested last night, I have to give Grant's defensive prowess a slight edge in this case. (Slight Advantage: Suns)
Marcin Gortat vs. Greg Monroe - Gortat has been the second best player on the Suns team this season averaging 16 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Greg Monroe has been the best player overall on the Pistons this season, averaging 16.6 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. Looking at those stats it basically a wash, and even if we instead compare their PER 36 stats, Gortat averages 17.4 points and 11.1 rebounds while Monroe averages 18.4 points and 11.0 rebounds...Still too close to call. Neither one of these players really plays above the rim, but instead rely on their skills and mobility to be successful. This will be a great match-up to keep an eye on tonight as these two go at it. (Push)
Suns Bench vs. Pistons Bench - The Pistons bench is anchored by Ben Gordon, Jonas Jerebko, and Ben Wallace with none of the other players getting consistent playing time. Gordon is their leading bench player averaging 27 minutes and 11 points per game while Jerebko averages 23 minutes a game and 9 points, 5 rebounds. Wallace averages around 15 minutes and 4 rebounds. The Suns bench on the other hand is filled with capable back-ups who are in and out of the rotation. Shannon Brown, Robin Lopez, Sebastian Telfair, and Markieff Morris have become the most consistent contributors, but Ronnie Price, Hakim Warrick, Michael Redd, and Josh Childress can also come in and help the team whenever the match-ups are favorable. The Suns' bench is much deeper than the Pistons, but their biggest issue has been consistency. Will the impressive play of Suns' bench last night continue on into tonight's game? It's hard to say, but they have been improving recently and I believe they are finally starting to come together. They should win this match-up handily. (Advantage: Suns)
This is a game the Suns can and should win tonight. All the pieces have seemingly fell in place perfectly for the Suns to get back to .500 in tonight's game against the Pistons...They are playing at home against an inferior team, their veteran stars are both well rested, and they are riding a wave of momentum after a shocking and impressive win against the Clippers last night. However, they simply cannot afford to take this Pistons team lightly or they could easily fall victim to an upset. They must continue to play with intensity and energy while remaining focused on their goal. If they do, they should be able to take care of business tonight and end their three-game streak undefeated, with a possible playoff berth realistically in their sights.