Well. It's a win.

Gotta win some ugly ones.

Two nights after winning a high scoring thriller in Boston, Phoenix rolled into the Motor City with a fantastic opportunity. Games against sub .500 Detroit, Indiana, and Philadelphia, should mean three wins before a trip to red-hot Toronto to face the Raptors on Monday. While the Suns still struggle to figure out what lineup works, it's hard to argue with tonight's result, an 88-86 defeat of the Pistons.

On the 10th anniversary of the infamous "Malice in the Palace" between the Pistons and Indiana Pacers, the Suns came on top in a sometimes ugly affair Wednesday night.

An eight point Phoenix lead with under two minutes remaining evaporated as Gerald Green and Alex Len committed turnovers, Brandon Jennings knocked down a three-point jumper, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit two triples to take a one point lead with 34 seconds remaining.

An Eric Bledsoe drive to the hoop with 28 seconds left regained the lead, before Markieff Morris gave us the play of the game, blocking Jennings' layup attempt with five seconds on the clock.

This game stayed close throughout. Neither team built a lead greater than three points through one half of play. In the third, Phoenix managed to build a seven point lead, time and again erased by timely scoring from Jennings.

Five Suns scored double figures with Eric Bledsoe leading Phoenix with 18 points on 6 of 11 shooting. Isaiah Thomas struggled for the second game in a row. Two nights after shooting 1 of 8 and scoring 5 points against Boston, Thomas again scored 5 on 1 of 9 shooting. Miles Plumlee led the Suns on the glass, collecting 10 rebounds in 23 minutes.

P.J. Tucker was especially efficient in his return from a one game suspension. In 30 minutes Tucker scored 16 points on 6 of 8 shooting to go along with 7 rebounds.

Detroit was led by Jennings, who scored 19 points and dished out 7 assists. Greg Monroe logged a double-double, scoring 18 and ripping down 12 boards.

After totaling 19 points and 7 rebounds on Monday against the Celtics, many have wanted to see increased playing time for Alex Len. Len did a little bit of everything on Wednesday. 16 minutes, 3 of 3 shooting for 6 points, 4 rebounds, 5 fouls, and a pair of turnovers.

The Suns entered Wednesday's matchup as the league's 6th highest scoring team at better than 105 points per contest. Against Detroit, Phoenix connected on 49% of field goals. The Pistons entered as the third lowest scoring team in the NBA at 93 points per game and shot 37.9% from the field.

Both teams are back in action Friday night. Phoenix gets the 76ers, Detroit travels to Atlanta for a date with the Hawks.

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The Suns try to win their second road game in a row on a long road trip to the East and Midwest. Tonight, it's the Motor City where the Suns try to top the Pistons.

Tonight the Phoenix Suns face the Detroit Pistons (5:30pm AZ time on FoxSports Arizona) in a tough road game that will be a battle of wills.

The Suns are 6th in the league in pace, while the Pistons are 25th. The Suns play a three-headed point guard monster, while the Pistons play a three-headed big man front court. The Suns will try to run hard while the Pistons will try to slow it down by rebounding every miss and winning the battle of second-chance points.

The Pistons

The Stan Van Gundy era has not gotten off to a great start. If you think it's hard for Suns coach Jeff Hornacek to manage three point guards, how about managing three power forward/centers who all have the chops to start and have proven as much in the past? I'd rather be Hornacek.

Stan is starting the three-headed big man monster and it's not going well. They lost to the Orlando Magic the other night in ugly fashion, losing 107-93.

The Detroit Pistons are not a playoff team. They are not a good team. They are not even an average team.

They are a bad team. Right now, they are a very bad team. So it's no surprise that the Orlando Magic were able to pull away late and coast to a 107-93 victory.

They have maybe three players playing consistently good basketball -- Brandon Jennings, Caron Butler and Greg Monroe.

--DetroitBadBoys.com, our SB Nation partner

Oy. When you've got Josh Smith and Andre Drummond on your team, and yet your best players are Jennings, Butler and Monroe (who is guaranteed to leave next summer), you're in trouble.

Andre Drummond has taken a step back this season while Josh Smith has remained "back" as Van Gundy continues to start all three of the bigs in the same lineup.

The Suns

The latest storylines around the Suns are good (Alex Len) and bad (P.J. Tucker).

Tucker missed the team bus in LA over the weekend and was benched for Monday's win over Boston. That's four games missed due to suspension out 11 possible games for what many believe is a team "leader". But the team is waving it off like no big deal.

"He just missed the bus," Hornacek told Doug and Wolf Tuesday morning on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. "We have rules and we want to try to establish those for guys, especially the young guys.

"P.J. is our leader. It was a one-time thing and I'm sure it's not a big deal."


In one rating of second-year players from the historically bad 2013 Draft, Alex Len has risen to the fourth best player from that draft so far this season. numberFire.com does all kinds of player rankings based on proprietary formula using box score data current and past to rank player effectiveness. Len currently ranks 4th, behind Kelly Olynyk, Otto Porter and Dennis Shroder, and ahead of the Greek Freak. Of course, it's early, but Len is just scratching the surface of his potential.

Len's last two games have been the best two-game stretch of his career: 17 and 11 against the Clippers and then 19 and 7 against the Celtics. He leads the team in dunks this season with 12 (Markieff Morris is second with 10), a dunk-a-game pace that would have led the team last season as well.

Last year's Suns-Pistons series

The Pistons and Suns split the season series last year.

The Pistons won the only game in Detroit 110-108 when Josh Smith played out of his mind, making clutch shots including a long-two game winner. Smith made 11 of 16 shots, mostly jumpers, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished 5 assists. Brandon Jennings had 18 assists in that game, nearly all of them by halftime. Monroe and Drummond combined for 33 points and 25 rebounds. The Suns were missing Bledsoe, but got great offensive contributions from the whole starting lineup as well as Marcus Morris. Markieff was a complete non-factor in the land of trees. Ultimately, the Suns lost on Josh Smith's wild night of being an effective 20-foot shooter.

Later in the season, the Suns won 98-92 in Phoenix. Markieff Morris was much more effective (16 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists) and the Slash Brothers had their way with the Piston back court. Rodney Stuckey had a good game, but he's gone to Indiana now.

The Stats


The (potential) Lineups


The Key Matchup

Certainly, the Suns need to make the game about the perimeter rather than the front court. They proved last season they can win even if Drummond, Monroe and Smith gobble up 40 rebounds between them. It's when those three combine for 50+ points that the Suns are in trouble.

Alex Len has progressed tremendously this season and his size will be a welcome site against the trees from Detroit. Len just has to stay out of foul trouble, as does Markieff Morris.

Out on a limb

My guess is that Alex Len has a crash-to-earth game against size of Drummond, even though Drummond has had a bad year so far. Miles Plumlee will start the night on Drummond, but Len will get plenty of opportunity to face up against these guys.

Final Prediction

This is exactly the kind of game the Suns lose. Detroit plays at a slow pace (check) and rebounds like crazy (check, check). And they just got embarrassed by Orlando the other night.

I hope the Suns come out to play and use this road trip to start getting on a roll. But tonight will be a tough test of wills. Can the Suns run up the score? Or will Detroit grind it down?

Suns eek one out, as Isaiah Thomas scores 22 and Gerald Green pumps in 20.

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