Defense turned up a notch in Detroit Pistons’ 118-98 win at Phoenix
By JOSE M. ROMERO
PHOENIX — The Detroit Pistons turned up the defensive pressure in the second half and turned away the Phoenix Suns.
Wayne Ellington scored 23 points and the Pistons made 17 3-pointers in a 118-98 victory on Thursday night. Detroit held the Suns to 38 second-half points and limited Suns star Devin Booker to six points in the final 24 minutes.
“We locked in and flipped the switch,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “Our guys became more disciplined as the game went on.”
The Pistons turned a five-point lead early in the fourth quarter into a 13-point advantage in a span of less than two minutes, featuring two dunks by Andre Drummond. Drummond finished with 16 points and 19 rebounds.
Blake Griffin, who was rested for Detroit’s loss at Cleveland on Monday, returned and struggled with his shot, going just 4 of 17. But he finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
“Our energy level went up,” Griffin said. “We got some stops and got a couple of easy (baskets). And once you see a couple go through, I think that helps the rhythm. But defensively we were a lot better in the fourth.”
Detroit outscored Phoenix 31-18 in the fourth quarter. The Pistons have won three of four and are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference after 71 games.
Booker scored 26 points for the Suns, who have lost four of five. Deandre Ayton added 20 points.
“This late in the season, people are playing for playoff seeding and we’re playing just to get better,” Booker said. “I think they wanted it more and it showed in the last quarter.”
Suns forward Josh Jackson left the game with 5:45 remaining in the third quarter after leaping to block Thon Maker’s shot attempt at the rim and landing awkwardly on his right ankle. Jackson got up and was helped off the court, and his injury was announced as a sprained ankle.
The Suns got off to a strong start, making 13 of 19 shots in the first quarter for a 32-29 lead. Booker scored 15 points in the quarter on 6-of-7 shooting.