|Suns may be shorthanded against Pistons|
PHOENIX -- When the Detroit Pistons hosted the Phoenix Suns the week after Thanksgiving, they had a lot to be thankful for. They were eight games over .500, riding high.
Now the Pistons are just trying to find a way to sneak into the playoffs, a goal that has long since vanished for the hapless Phoenix Suns, who have the worst record in the league.
Detroit (31-39) was 14-6 after drubbing the Suns 131-107 at home Nov. 29, but the loss of point guard Reggie Jackson to torn ankle ligaments a month later put a severe crimp in their style.
The Pistons have not been plus-eight since then as they prepare to visit the Suns (19-52) in the fifth game of a six-game road trip Tuesday at Talking Stick Resort Arena, having taken a dramatic downward turn without Jackson, who took part in 4-on-4 work and could return this week.
Detroit broke a three-game losing streak with a 106-90 victory at Sacramento while halting a 12-game road losing skid on Monday, but has lost seven of nine and 10 of 13.
The Pistons are 17-33 since their first meeting with the Suns and are 8-13 since the acquisition of power forward Blake Griffin, the move that was supposed to push into the playoffs. They are six games behind eighth place Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference with 12 to play, although only four of those opponents have a winning record, a slice of hope.
Griffin had 26 points, nine rebounds and seven assists against the Kings and Andre Drummond had four points and 18 rebounds. Both Griffin and Reggie Bullock had three 3-pointers, as did reserve guard Anthony Tolliver.
"This time of year, you take any way however you can get it," said Griffin, who won his first road game with Detroit. "You get one on the road after being on the road for eight nights already, it's always great. So we took care of business. Now we've got to do it again."
The Suns have lost eight in a row, 18 out of 19 and 23 of 25 since beating Denver in mid-January. The only games they have won in two months were at home against Dallas on Jan. 31 and at Memphis on Feb. 28.
The victory over the Grizzlies broke an 0-for-February skid; the Suns had lost their first 10 games of the month. They are 0-for-March in eight games, with five remaining in the month after facing Detroit.
Once again, the Suns are likely Tuesday to be without their top two scorers, Devin Booker and TJ Warren. Warren suffered a left knee sprain in a 124-109 loss to a Golden State team playing without Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson on Saturday, and Booker has been dealing with a sprained hand that was jammed in practice on Wednesday.
Booker, averaging a career-high 24.9 points in his third season, has missed 17 games with various injuries this year.
Rookie small forward Josh Jackson, 6-foot-8, has taken on much of the scoring load in the recent absences of Booker and Warren, and he had a season-high 36 points against the Warriors, often matched up against Draymond Green.
"It was great," Jackson said.
"I had a lot of fun out there. Talked to him a little bit. He actually knows me pretty well. He was actually calling out a couple of my moves before I did them. Yeah, it was real fun out there playing against him."
Jackson's 36 points were the highest in franchise history by a rookie in a home game. Walter Davis scored 40, 39 and 38 points in 1977-78, all of them on the road. Amar'e Stoudemire had 38 on the road in 2001-02 and Dennis Layton had 37 on the road in 1971-72.
"A lot of it is communication, us understanding him and him understanding what we're looking for," Suns interim coach Jay Triano said of Jackson's development.
"He's a fast player, and he came in and was accelerating and tried to play super fast. And then he slowed down and got pace. He's continued to work on his shot. He stays after practice. And somewhere in January, he's just kind of taken off.
"I'm happy because it takes some guys a long time to figure this league out and what they can excel at and he did it very fast. And night-in and night-out, he's been pretty solid for us."
Jackson, the fourth player taken in the 2017 draft, is averaging 17.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists in his last 20 games.