The surging Phoenix Suns have already met the two teams with the worst records in the NBA on their five-game road trip, but they’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone playing worse than the Detroit Pistons.
The Suns can extend the league’s longest current winning streak to 10 on Friday night at The Palace, where the Pistons look to avoid the second double-digit losing streak of their miserable season.
Phoenix (49-26) had won six in a row heading into its trip and has not stopped rolling against some lesser competition.
Amare Stoudemire had 30 points in a 111-105 win at Minnesota on Sunday, then Steve Nash(notes) had nine points and four assists in the final five minutes in Chicago on Tuesday, helping the Suns rally from a six-point fourth-quarter deficit for another 111-105 victory.
Nash, playing lately despite a sore back, did it again Wednesday in New Jersey. The two-time MVP had 24 points and 14 assists in a 116-105 win that kept Phoenix in the Western Conference’s fourth spot.
The Suns went 12-2 in March and are an NBA-best 18-4 since the All-Star break, putting themselves in excellent position to earn home-court for the first round of the playoffs - and potentially finish as high as second.
“I think we’ve been playing great, it’s just usually if you have a run like that, you put yourself in a pretty good situation and you have separation,” coach Alvin Gentry said. “And the only one we’ve separated ourselves from is the fact that we’re going to make the playoffs.”
Phoenix is on its longest winning streak since a franchise-record 17-game run during the 2006-07 season, and it should have a great chance to hit double digits Friday. The Pistons (23-51) ended March on a nine-game slide, losing by an average of 14.1 points.
Detroit led Miami by two after one quarter Wednesday, but was convincingly outplayed in the other three en route to a 98-81 loss.
The Pistons, though, don’t seem to be on the same page as coach John Kuester as they play out the string in a season that has seen a 13-game losing streak. Charlie Villanueva(notes), who signed a five-year, $35 million contract over the summer, didn’t play in the second half of a loss to Chicago on Sunday and didn’t get off the bench against the Heat.
“I don’t know what is going on. No one has said anything to me,” said the fifth-year forward, who has averaged 8.3 points since the All-Star break. “All I can do is go out there, play if they put me in the game and cheer on my teammates if they don’t.”
Kuester has been giving more minutes to young players such as DaJuan Summers(notes) and Austin Daye(notes), and additional injuries in a season full of them may give Summers and Daye even more time. Richard Hamilton(notes) sat out Wednesday with a sprained ankle and Jason Maxiell(notes) left early with a back strain.
Neither player’s status for Friday is clear, but the Pistons need all the help they can get against Phoenix. The Suns won the last three meetings by an average of 18.0 points, the most recent a 117-91 victory at the US Airways Center on Nov. 22.
Phoenix concludes its trip Saturday against Milwaukee.