Pistons try to stop slide against Suns

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The playoff prospects of the Detroit Pistons seemed bright
entering the week.

The Pistons had reached the .500 mark and moved up to seventh
in the Eastern Conference standings. As they head into a Sunday
matchup with the Phoenix Suns at the Palace in Auburn Hills,
Mich., the Pistons find themselves in a precarious spot.

A three-game losing streak — all by double digits — has
dropped them out of the top eight in the standings. With 13
games remaining, the Pistons (33-36) need a strong finish to
secure a playoff berth for the second straight year.

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Point guard Reggie Jackson struck an optimistic tone following
an 87-75 home loss to Toronto on Friday night.

“We are not panicking,” Jackson said. “Everybody has had their
run, so 13 games left, I know in my mind I am bound to make one
before it happens, so I am good.

“I plan to be in the playoffs. We are going to keep chasing it
each and every day. I love my team and they are optimistic,
just as much as I am. We are going to keep attacking this.”

That positive outlook will dissipate if the Pistons don’t solve
their offensive woes. They are shooting 38.1 percent during the
slide and scored a season-low in points against the Raptors.

The Pistons were held to three points in the final 9:31,
missing 13 of their last 14 shots and committing three
turnovers.

“It’s frustrating because I thought our guys put out a really
good defensive effort,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I thought
they really worked hard defensively and I thought we made it
tough on them until the last few minutes of the game.

“Our offense is just nowhere to be found.”

The Suns might be just what Detroit needs to regain its
shooting touch. Phoenix ranks in the bottom three league-wide
in points allowed and defensive field-goal percentage.

Phoenix (22-47) has lost five of its last six, including its
last three. The Suns are coming off a 109-103 home loss to
Orlando on Friday night.

That was their second outing since the team’s brass decided to
shut down point guard Eric Bledsoe for the remainder of the
season, partially because of left knee soreness and also to
take a longer look at rookie Tyler Ulis.

Ulis played 40 minutes against the Magic, posting 19 points and
eight assists.

“I think I’m playing pretty well,” Ulis told the Arizona
Republic. “I just need to adjust to my new role. (Coach Earl
Watson) wants me to be a lot more aggressive coming out. I’m
used to coming in as the backup, facilitating and getting guys
involved early. I’m just trying to adjust to it.”

There are also injury concerns regarding shooting guard Devin
Booker. He was held to 10 points by Orlando and admitted that
he’s dealing with ankle and Achilles issues.

“Most games (the ankle) loosens up and then I’m able to go,”
Booker told the Republic. “It was stiff most of the night. Came
back here (to the locker room) and tried to work on it and just
couldn’t get it going.”

The Suns won the first meeting, 107-100, in Phoenix when they
were closer to full strength. Detroit has won four of the last
five meetings at The Palace.

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