Shorthanded Pistons end West Coast trip with loss to Suns

Mike Curtis
The Detroit News

The Pistons closed out their six-game West Coast road swing with a 108-102 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Friday night.

Like their previous five road games, the Pistons remained competitive throughout the game against the team with the best record in the Western Conference despite being down four starters.

The loss snapped a brief two-game win streak for the Pistons, their longest of the season. Detroit is now 5-16.

BOX SCORE: Suns 108, Pistons 102

The Pistons were already shorthanded without Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart, but the team was also thin in the backcourt without Jaden Ivey, who did not play in Friday's loss due to right knee soreness. Cory Joseph was also unavailable due to a non-Covid related illness.

Pistons' Isaiah Livers (12 ) defends against Suns' Deandre Ayton (22) during the first half.

Detroit trailed by as many as nine points with 7:11 left in the fourth quarter but fought back to cut the deficit to two with two minutes left in the game. The Pistons had two chances to tie late in the game, but Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks both missed 3-point shots. On the next possession, Deandre Ayton bullied his way inside the paint for a putback dunk to give the Suns a 102-97 lead with 1:37 remaining.

Burks then split a pair of free throws to bring the Pistons within four, but Cameron Payne scored a floater on the other end to give the Suns a comfortable six-point lead that Detroit was unable to recover from.

During this time, Bogdanovic left the game with 24 seconds left after Suns forward Torrey Craig inadvertently stepped on his ankle. The veteran forward was eventually helped to the bench and did not return.

"It's unfortunate," Pistons coach Dwane Casey said after the game. "(Craig) stepped on his foot, tweaked his knee, so they're looking at him now. Big play, and somebody's gotta be able to see that play in that situation. The man turns up his knee and loses the ball so we gotta look at it, but we'll find out a little bit later on, how his knee is."

Ayton had a double-double of 28 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Suns (12-6). Grand Rapids native Devin Booker added 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Payne had 16 points and 10 assists. Mikal Bridges scored 15.

Killian Hayes, who left Friday's win over the Utah Jazz due to left calf soreness, had a superb all-around game for the Pistons with 17 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. The third-year guard was initially a game-time decision, but Detroit needed every minute of Hayes' talents as he impacted the game on offense and defense.

Bogdanovic ended the game with a team-high 19 points, four rebounds and three assists. The veteran forward picked up two early fouls and Casey left him in the game, risking a third foul in the first quarter. Bogdanovic did not commit another foul for the remainder of the game.

After scoring a season-high 19 points against the Jazz on Wednesday, Pistons center Marvin Bagley produced another productive effort. He finished with his first double-double of the season with 13 points and 12 rebounds in 31 minutes.

Bagley received more time on the floor on Friday because Jalen Duren was limited by foul trouble. The rookie center picked up three fouls in the first half and totaled just four points and five rebounds in 14 minutes of action.

Pistons guard Rodney McGruder, who had only played in five games before Friday, had his first start of the season due to Ivey's injury. It was his first start since March of last year. He had a solid outing, especially in the third quarter when he had a sequence of back-to-back 3-pointers to keep the Pistons afloat. The veteran guard finished with eight points and six rebounds.

"It's disappointing because the guys played their hearts out," Casey said. "They competed at a high level. We had one point guard, basically. Eighteen turnovers, which broke our back. But I thought guys competed at a very high level, defensively, offensively with one of the best teams in the league.

"It's frustrating from that standpoint, but it is growth. We have to look at it from a positive standpoint. We're out four starters and the guys that stepped in did their job. I'm proud of them for that."

The Pistons will return to Detroit after nearly two weeks away from home to prepare for Sunday's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The game will tip-off at 6 p.m.

Twitter: @MikeACurtis2