AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Even as much as they have underachieved, the Detroit Pistons find themselves tied for eighth place in the Eastern Conference as they prepare to host the surprising Phoenix Suns on Saturday. Detroit snapped a six-game skid with a 114-104 win at Philadelphia on Friday, pulling even with Charlotte for the final playoff spot in the process. The Suns let one slip away Friday in Memphis, squandering a nine-point, third-quarter lead in a 104-99 loss.
The Pistons were down by double digits for most of the first half before rallying past the 76ers for their first win since before Christmas. They haven't won consecutive games since Dec. 16-18.
"Hopefully this is a stepping stone for us to get going," Detroit coach Maurice Cheeks told reporters. Phoenix closed 2013 with a flourish, winning 10 of 12, but has been unable to generate any momentum since the calendar flipped, alternating wins and losses in its first five games in the new year.
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ABOUT THE SUNS (21-14): Phoenix will be without guard Eric Bledsoe (18 points, 5.8 assists) for longer than initially expected, as he underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus Friday. Bledsoe's absence was felt against Memphis in the form of a season-low five fast-break points and the lack of a defensive answer for point guard Mike Conley. The Suns still have a deep group of scorers but need someone to pick up some of the slack and take pressure off leading scorer Goran Dragic (19.2 points, 6 assists).
ABOUT THE PISTONS (15-22): Detroit at least temporarily solved its second-half woes, outscoring the 76ers by 18 after the break. Josh Smith (15.3 points, 6.9 rebounds) has been a bit of a disappointment in his first season in the Motor City, but he stuffed the stat sheet against Philadelphia and might be the biggest key to the Pistons turning the season around. Twin towers Greg Monroe (14.6 points, 8.9 rebounds) and Andre Drummond (12.7 points, 12.6 rebounds) could have a big night against a Suns team that the Grizzlies dominated inside.
1. The Suns have won seven of the last nine meetings, but the Pistons won 117-77 in Detroit in the most recent meeting
2. Phoenix has won the second game of its last four back-to-back sets.
3. The Pistons pulled down 25 offensive rebounds against Philadelphia and lead the league with 14.7 per game.
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