Pistons finish strong, beat short-handed Suns
By NOAH TRISTER
AP Sports Writer
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Stan Van Gundy wants his Detroit Pistons to play with energy in the middle of a playoff race.
The problem is that sometimes urgency leads to frustration — especially if a game against a weaker opponent becomes more difficult than it should be.
“You’ve got to learn to deal with the pressure,” said Van Gundy, Detroit’s coach. “You can’t say there’s no pressure, because there is, there’s pressure on these games. But if you want to play at a high level in the NBA, you have to play with pressure.”
The Pistons finally shook out of their funk late in the third quarter and routed the short-handed Phoenix Suns 112-95 on Sunday. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 23 points for playoff-chasing Detroit.
The Suns were without several top players, but they still led 65-53 in the third quarter. Detroit (34-36) finished strong in that period and then built a double-digit lead of its own in the fourth.
“It don’t matter who you put out there,” Caldwell-Pope said. “It was a game we needed.”
Andre Drummond had 18 points and 18 rebounds for the Pistons, and Aron Baynes had 13 points and 17 rebounds.
Tyler Ulis had 17 points and 11 assists for the Suns.
Phoenix was without guard Devin Booker (right ankle), guard Ronnie Price (left leg), guard Leandro Barbosa (illness) and forward Dragan Bender (right ankle). The Suns (22-48) have also been playing without Eric Bledsoe , Brandon Knight and Tyson Chandler, choosing instead to give young players more time.
Detroit went on a 16-0 run in the first quarter but was only up by one point at the end of the period. The Suns were ahead 49-47 at halftime.
The Pistons scored the final six points of the third quarter, then began the fourth with five in a row to lead 82-75. A 3-pointer by Reggie Jackson made it 88-77.
“I think we got a little exhausted during the game but at the same time it’s no excuse,” Ulis said. “You’ve got to try and finish out that game no matter what the circumstances are.”