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Suns sink to level of competition, take bad loss at home to Pistons

Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) battles Detroit Pistons forward Christian Wood (35) for the rebound during the second half of an NBA game, Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns’ worst habit as a team in the 2019-20 season is playing with a certain energy level that represents like “they’ve been here before,” as if going through the motions and executing when it matters will be enough for them to win.

And sometimes that is actually the case, even for a team like the Suns.

But most nights any NBA team will punish you for it, even the 19-41 Pistons, who traded Andre Drummond for nothing, waived Reggie Jackson and Markieff Morris and are missing Blake Griffin, Bruce Brown and Luke Kennard due to injury.

A good first half from Ricky Rubio and Deandre Ayton wasn’t good enough on Friday night, and there wasn’t help there beyond them.

I mean, the Suns of all teams were favored by nine points in this game, which should tell you about Detroit’s situation.

And yet, with all of this, the Suns lost 113-111 in a game they never controlled or even made a big run in until it was “just way too late” as Devin Booker put it.

This is not a matter of looking ahead to their next opponent, either. While they do play on Saturday, it’s against the Golden State Warriors, who just started Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss together. In 2020. In the NBA.

Phoenix could have looked at this two-games-in-two-nights stretch as a real opportunity to make up ground on a small opening to make a run still at the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

They certainly did not have that mentality on the court.

It should piss them off that Brandon Knight, who has been dumped in trades by three teams (including the Suns) in less than two years, dropped 19 points. That’s the most points he has scored in a game since he was on the Suns all the way back in December of 2016.

It was so bad that Derrick Rose, who dominated all night and had 31 points, gave Knight an opportunity to kill off the team that traded him. And when Knight missed too many shots and the Suns got within two, Rose took the reigns back and won the game anyway.

It’s certainly a night the Suns miss Kelly Oubre Jr., who reportedly tore his meniscus. But Oubre has been out there for some of the lackadaisical efforts we mentioned at the top too and this was the latest inexcusable one.

This isn’t even about a long shot at the postseason, either. If the Suns are going to make progress and take steps forward as an entire unit now and in the future, these are the types of performances they’ve got to wipe. They did it twice at home against Memphis this season, again in Chicago in the first half a few days ago and now twice in three weeks against Detroit, just to name a few.

The next tier for the Suns to reach from the pits of sub-25 wins basketball doesn’t even have to do with a win total, really. It’s about them competing night in and night out, with encouraging losses like the one on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Clippers.

They can’t get better from that if they follow it up with a dud like Friday’s, and how they come out the next night will tell a lot about how they feel about the loss.

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