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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

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
Greg Monroe 43 32.5 6.7 13.0 51.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 3.3 4.3 76.9 4.0 6.0 9.9 2.5 2.5 1.2 0.6 2.9 16.6
Rodney Stuckey 38 31.6 5.2 11.5 45.0 0.6 1.7 36.5 5.5 6.5 83.9 0.7 2.2 3.0 4.1 2.0 0.8 0.2 2.3 16.4
Tayshaun Prince 41 33.4 5.4 12.8 42.2 0.5 1.4 37.3 1.2 1.6 75.4 1.1 3.2 4.4 2.5 1.1 0.4 0.4 1.1 12.5
Brandon Knight 43 32.1 4.7 11.4 40.7 1.5 4.1 36.0 1.7 2.2 78.1 0.5 2.8 3.4 3.7 2.5 0.7 0.1 2.5 12.5
Ben Gordon 32 27.7 4.5 10.7 42.4 0.9 2.6 36.6 1.8 2.2 82.9 0.2 2.0 2.2 2.3 2.3 0.7 0.2 2.1 11.8
Jonas Jerebko 43 23.6 3.5 7.6 46.0 0.5 1.8 27.3 1.5 1.9 80.5 1.7 3.3 5.0 0.7 1.1 0.7 0.4 2.9 9.0
Jason Maxiell 42 22.0 2.6 5.6 47.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.0 1.8 56.8 2.1 3.2 5.3 0.7 1.1 0.5 0.8 2.3 6.3
Will Bynum 16 11.6 1.6 4.6 35.6 0.2 0.7 27.3 1.3 1.9 70.0 0.3 1.1 1.3 1.1 1.3 0.6 0.0 1.3 4.8
Austin Daye 28 14.3 1.7 5.6 30.1 0.3 1.6 19.6 1.0 1.1 90.0 0.4 2.0 2.3 1.0 1.1 0.4 0.5 1.4 4.6
Damien Wilkins 39 15.3 1.2 2.9 40.2 0.1 0.4 29.4 0.6 1.0 65.8 0.4 1.2 1.6 0.8 0.6 0.5 0.2 1.5 3.1
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
Vernon Macklin 19 4.2 0.6 1.1 55.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.4 50.0 0.3 0.6 0.9 0.2 0.1 0.2 0.1 0.1 1.4
Ben Wallace 42 14.8 0.5 1.2 37.3 0.0 0.0 50.0 0.1 0.3 42.9 1.0 2.8 3.9 0.6 0.5 0.7 0.7 0.9 1.1
Charlie Villanueva 3 2.7 0.0 1.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.0 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0

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.

Key Match-Ups:

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.

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Detroit Bad Boys

Phoenix Suns 109, Detroit Pistons 101 The Phoenix Suns look to get back to .500 for the first time since Jan. 8 when they take on the Detroit Pistons tonight in US Airways Center. The Suns, playing...

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You've seen the video, but sometimes one picture tells it all. Here's Markieff Morris giving Blake Griffin a taste of his own medicine. Blake's been in plenty of poster dunk posters in his short career, but this is my favorite so far. Enjoy.


Copyright 2012 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)


If Steve Nash would have demanded a trade after the first half of this season, no one would have blamed him. His team was awful, and was looking as though they would continue to be awful for 66 games. But Nash neve complained, he never brought up a trade scenario (although many others did, which he calmly and truthfully discussed).

As time progressed and the trade deadline loomed, the national hacks all over placed Nash in Orlando, Dallas, Portland, Toronto, New York...Name it. But Nash held up to his word. He would not ask to be traded. Meanwhile the Suns brass stated they would not trade Nash unless he asked.

Still, no one really believed that. After all, athletes often say what sounds best and most NBA GM's and owners usually keep quiet as to plans for their human assets they may or may not be shopping. Yet in this case, both sides kept to their word. The result, Nash is leading his team into the Western Conference playoff race.

Paul Coro goes into more depth about the past, present and future of Steve Nash, a rare breed of professional athlete:

Loyalty makes Suns' Steve Nash stick out: Paul Coro/AZ Central

"He will have options and one he will strongly consider is Phoenix, based on what they're planning to do," Duffy said. "They respect him and he likes (Suns Managing Partner) Robert Sarver, (President of Basketball Operations) Lon Babby, (coach) Alvin Gentry and his teammates. -Nash Agent Bill Duffy

A match made in hell.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

As former Phoenix Suns coach Mike D'Antoni ponders his future, we Suns fans are left to wonder just how the national media didn't know this day was coming. Those who reveled in the mid-2000s Suns had to know in their hearts that Carmelo Anthony was the worst possible ingredient to a Mike D'Antoni winning recipe.

Forget for a moment that the same national media touted Jeremy Lin - he of a handful of NBA starts and career shooting percentage under 40% - as the second coming to two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash. And forget for another moment that Amare Stoudemire is physically regressing before our eyes. Both of those are still open for debate. Lin DOES run the pick-and-roll like Nash sometimes. And Suns fans have seen Amare rise from the ashes many a time to be better than ever.

But one aspect of that Knicks team is not debatable: Carmelo Anthony and Mike D'Antoni were a laughingly terrible fit.

Carmelo Anthony is one of the NBA's best "isolation" players - taking the ball on the wing, inside the 3-pt line, and creating a shot for himself no matter how many defenders are committed to stopping him. Anthony can pass, for sure. But he doesn't. He just shucks and jives and hoists a shot. He is also a me-first diva who pouts during a live NBA basketball game when it's been more than 2 minutes since his last iso. Deadly.

Alternately, the word "isolation" is not in Mike's playbook. His offense thrives on a ball-pounding, pass-before-shooting-but-being-hyper-dangerous-either-way point guard looking to find the open spot-up shooter or rolling dunker. His offense thrives on spacing. There can only be two guys inside the 3-point line - the point guard and a mobile big. And that's only after the initial high screen to get the defense on their heels. If the defense loads up on the big, then he takes the open shot himself. If the defense loads up on both the ballhandler and the big, then he just swings the ball to one of 2 or 3 open shooters on the 3-point line. D'Antoni's primary ballhandler NEVER forces a bad shot. "The ball finds the energy," D'Antoni always said. Deadly.

Putting D'Antoni and Anthony on the same team? Deadly. And not in a good way.

Seeing the utter flameout of D'Antoni in New York, culminating in yesterday's resignation after only 10 horrible games with the "stars" together (Anthony, Stoudemire, Lin and Chandler), gives me so much more respect for George Karl than I'd ever had before.

Look at the current, post-Anthony Nuggets. They are the leagues latest epitome of a ball-sharing, PG-heavy team. The hot hand gets the ball. There's a new scoring leader every night, and yet not a single all-star on the team. The new Nuggets are winning a lot of games.

Somehow, George Karl was able to thrive with Carmelo Anthony in his lineup too. Karl always had the iso-heavy Nuggets in the 50-win range, topping out at the Western Conference Finals a few years ago. He stayed with his team, and kept them dangerous every season, despite major injury issues to Nene, crazy head games with JR Smith, me-first play from Carmelo and his own cancer scare.

D'Antoni? In a mere 12 months with two of the NBA's best individual players, he lost the respect of the locker room (Anthony), and just walked away.

D'Antoni's experience in New York reminds me of a campy, funny Brendan Fraser movie where his wishes always came true but they were horribly twisted into variations that failed miserably.

D'Antoni got his all-star scorers, including the game's best pick-and-roll finisher (Stoudemire and Anthony). He got his Nash-like point guard to run the show (Lin). He got his defense-oriented C to cover for his all-stars' mistakes (Chandler). And he got some 3-point shooters around the wing (JR Smith, Steve Novak). What could go wrong?

Well, his Nash-like point guard can't shoot or hold onto the ball. His defense-oriented C is clogging the lane, messing up the spacing for his All-Star power forward - who somehow lost the explosiveness that defined his game. His all-star small forward is clogging the lane and the ball too. And with 3 guys who won't and can't stay behind the 3-point line, the spacing on the offense disappears. In fact, the Knicks have boasted the WORST offense in the league when these 4 (Chandler, Lin, Anthony and Stoudemire) are on the floor together. And, if Chandler is sitting, the other 3 boast the WORST defense in the league too.

And Mike D'Antoni cannot stomach it, so he just quit. Just like in 2008.

He can't stand being called to the carpet. It's one thing to lose when you're supposed to. But losing when you're supposed to win? And having your own front office *gasp* wonder why you can't win with the tools they gave you? The tools, by the way, that local and national media collectively believed was enough to win with?

That's not how Mike rolls. His skin is thinner than a sheet of onion paper. Suns fans know this all too well. D'Antoni quit within 24 hours of a first-round loss to the Spurs in 2008 - their third loss to the Spurs in 4 seasons. He bristled when his rookie GM said something along the lines of "I think we need to focus more on defense in order to beat teams like the Spurs. I'm not sure we can ever win the big one without a couple tweaks in your approach." D'Antoni stomped his feet, crossed his arms, and walked away in a huff. Less than a month later, in an interview with his new best friends amongst the New York media, he admitted that he may have overreacted.

D'Antoni got what he wanted. He got the big contract and the spotlight as the Knicks savior. He got love from the national media and a two year honeymoon as everyone waited patiently for the new Knicks to be shaped and reborn.

But once the unconditional love turned to "tough love", once the future became the present, and yet the wins didn't automatically materialize, D'Antoni left. He didn't even wait for playoff heartbreak this time. He just walked away in a huff, an intractable child who won't implement whatever it takes to win games. He just coaches one way, and hopes the players figure out how to make it work.

Mike D'Antoni is no George Karl. And I would not be surprised if he never gets another head coaching gig in the NBA.

Be honest: When Anthony was acquired last March, how many playoff games did you expect that pairing to win?

  253 votes | Results

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