Detroit — The Pistons had to go to the desert to end their cold streak.
And they had to hold on in the final minutes to get it done, behind Derrick Rose.
Rose bloomed in the desert, tying his season high with 31 points, including two sensational drives in the final minute, carrying the Pistons to a thrilling, 113-111 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Friday night at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Rose had 13 points in the fourth quarter and Christian Wood added 19 points, nine rebounds and five assists, Brandon Knight 19 points and Svi Mykhailiuk 13 points, as the Pistons ended their seven-game losing streak.
“I feel good for the guys who have been working their behinds off,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey told reporters after the game. “The development has shown a lot of good things in a lot of different places. I feel good for the players. I’ve been through this before and I know what phase of our program we’re in.
“Tonight was a big step toward which way we want to go in the future.”
The Pistons (20-41) had a chance to put it away in the final seconds but their mistake made it more interesting. They had a two-point lead with 1.9 seconds left, after the Suns’ Devin Booker (26 points, six rebounds and six assists) hit a jumper to keep them within two, needing a turnover to stay in it.
The Pistons threw away the inbounds pass and DeAndre Ayton (20 points and 10 rebounds) got the ball and the Suns (24-36) called timeout to set up a final play. Booker got the inbounds pass and couldn’t get a good look before time expired, allowing the Pistons finally to celebrate.
“It felt good just to be able to come in and get a win and most importantly, to get a win. We had been struggling to finish games and come out with a win,” Knight said. “We had been fighting but not putting a complete game together and we were able to do that on the road and it feels good against a young Suns team that’s really good and talented.”
In the fourth quarter, the Pistons opened with three straight baskets from Rose — a 3-pointer, a lay-in and a jumper. Langston Galloway added a 3-pointer, giving the Pistons a 10-point lead with 8:53 left.
Ayton ended the run with a basket and Ricky Rubio (16 points and 13 rebounds) had 10 points in the fourth quarter, including a drive that trimmed the lead to seven. Knight got hot in the fourth quarter, with a pair of 3-pointers and down the stretch, Casey played Knight with Rose for a potent ball-handling duo.
“You’ve got to have it. Multiple playmakers is what your roster has to have. That’s why we had Brandon and Derrick out there a lot, with two point guards,” Casey said. “I’ve always had success with multiple point guards in the game and it’s hard for defenses to guard.”
In the final quarter, Rose had 13 points and Knight 11; the only other field goal came from Galloway. Wood and Donta Hall each had a free throw, but the guards dominated the fourth quarter offensively.
►Svi Mykhailiuk awoke from his offensive slumber since returning from injury after the All-Star break. In his last four games, Mykhailiuk was posting 6.5 points and shooting 35% on field goals and 26% from beyond the arc. He got hot on his first couple of field goals and had his highest-scoring game in more than a month, including three 3-pointers.
►The Pistons had their first lead entering the second quarter since Feb. 8, against the Knicks. Casey had been lamenting the slow starts by his various starting units and he opted for Rose, Mykhailiuk, Tony Snell, Wood and John Henson. That group helped get out to a 9-2 start and 29-22 lead after the first period.
►Knight got it going from 3-point range, going 5-of-11, improving to 12-of-27 (44% ) from beyond the arc in the last three games. His two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter helped stretch the lead to 11 with 2:35 left before the Suns rallied.
►Casey opted to go to an offensive attack with two points guards down the stretch, playing with Rose and Knight together, which helped jump-start the offense. Both attacked the rim, but Knight played more off the ball and was able to hit a couple of tough 3-pointers that stretched the lead and kept the Suns at bay.
►Derrick Walton Jr. and Donta Hall, both on 10-day contracts, got playing time, including some critical minutes for Hall down the stretch, taking some of Thon Maker’s minutes as one of the bigs.
“Physicality,” Casey said. “You’ve got to have that one bruiser in there and he did a good job.”