Phoenix Suns 109, Detroit Pistons 101 -- Avoiding the trap game

Jared Dudley, the undisputed greatest player in the NBA, possibly the universe, once again led the Suns to victory -- and in scoring. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Jared Dudley once again led the Suns in scoring, and Phoenix relied on teamwork and excellent ball movement to defeat the Pistons, 109-101. With the victory, the Suns moved to .500 at 22-22 for the first time since they were 4-4 on Jan. 8. Now two games back of the eighth seed in the Western Conference, they also joined the Bulls, Heat and Thunder as the only teams to win all three games of a back-to-back-to-back series.

The first quarter saw the Suns get out to their typical quick start. Dudley started off on fire, scoring 12 points in the first frame. Nash had seven assists in the first 12 minutes, something he seems to do in 80 percent of the Suns’ games so far this season. Phoenix would pass the ball well throughout the night — of their 41 total made field goals, 32 were assisted. The Suns took a 31-27 at the end of the first quarter, and Phoenix fans prepared for the roller coaster of the bench unit in the second.

Detroit’s backcourt abused the Phoenix perimeter defense as the Suns offense went dry in the start of the second. Through the first two quarters, Rodney Stuckey (17) and Brandon Knight (14) combined for 31 Piston points. The Pistons also got significant production from Jonas Jerebko off the bench in the second; he had nine points before halftime, including an at-the-time backbreaking three as the shot clock expired toward the end of the first half. At the break, Detroit was winning the field goal shooting, free throw shooting, 3-point shooting and turnover battles.

The Suns kept themselves in the game, though, by crashing the offensive boards, grabbing 10 of their own misses, led by Channing Frye. Frye struggled offensively on the night, going 4-for-14 from the field, but he was the only player to end up with double-digit rebounds (13). It was the fourth time this season he had at least 10 field goal attempts in a game, shot less than 30 percent from the field and grabbed at least 10 boards. On nights when Frye is struggling offensively, he’s still managing to crash the boards and contribute something.

The Suns’ starters started to take over the game in the third quarter. Grant Hill scored on three of four straight Phoenix possessions (Marcin Gortat scored on the other one) as the Pistons threatened to pull away in order to keep the game close. A couple Suns misses gave way to a Gortat layup and a Dudley three to tie the game at 73 and force a Detroit timeout. The Suns and Pistons would trade baskets back and forth for the rest of the quarter; Detroit led 80-79 going into the fourth. Gortat totaled eight in the third, and Nash had all 17 of his assists on the night by the end of the quarter.

With the bench in to start the fourth quarter, the Phoenix offense turned its weary eyes to Robin Lopez. Much of what the Suns did with the ball in the first half of the fourth quarter involved getting Lopez touches in the post — he was the only Phoenix player to score for the first 3:27 of the period. In fact, Lopez was playing well enough in the fourth to warrant coach Alvin Gentry keeping Gortat on the bench for the last 12 minutes of the game for the second straight night. The Pistons did their best to keep the Suns’ bench (and Frye) at bay for as long as possible, but Phoenix seized the lead on a Shannon Brown deep ball with 5:33 to go. Nash, Dudley and Hill returned to the floor with 4:56 to go in the fourth to ice the game for the Suns, who were 9-for-10 from the free throw line over the last three minutes of the game.

The win, combined with Minnesota’s loss to the Lakers, moves Phoenix into sole possession of ninth in the west. Their 8-2 record since the All-Star break is tied with those same Lakers for second best in the league, behind only the Chicago Bulls.

And 1

  • The Pistons shot 51.3 percent from the field on the night. Coach Gentry joked after the game that he asked Jerebko why teams had been shooting well against the Suns lately, and Jerebko said that they hadn’t seen the sun in three months and were loosened up because of the beautiful Phoenix weather.
  • Michael Redd (15 minutes) split backup shooting guard duty with Brown (16) fairly evenly on the night. He scored 11 points, 10 of which came during the second quarter.
  • Markieff Morris once again saw his playing time limited; he was on the court for just 12 minutes.
  • This was the ninth time that Nash played more than 30 minutes and had five or fewer points in a game with the Suns. Phoenix is actually 7-2 in such games, in which Nash averages 13.67 assists per game.

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