November 18, 2014

Coach Stan Van Gundy figured the Detroit Pistons were going to take their lumps navigating through a difficult first portion of the schedule with Brandon Jennings still recovering from offseason surgery.

That's why he considers it an accomplishment to be heading into December sitting at .500.

Detroit continues its homestand Wednesday night against a Phoenix Suns team going through a rough patch that has dropped it below the break-even mark.

Jennings hopes to return at some point this month after suffering a torn left Achilles last season that forced him to miss the final 38 games and the first portion of this campaign, but the Pistons (9-9) have been playing decent basketball without him.

They won five of their first six before a three-week slump, then capped November with Monday's 116-105 victory over Houston to begin a four-game homestand. Being at .500 is more than respectable considering Detroit has played 11 road games, tied for the second-most behind Toronto's 12.

"We got through a difficult month and a week," Van Gundy said. "When I looked at the schedule in the summer - with all the new guys and the young guys and all of that - 9-9 would've been pretty good."

Reggie Jackson agrees. The Pistons rank near the bottom of the league in field-goal percentage at 41.5 and points per game with 96.6, but they put that aside Monday.

Detroit shot a season-best 52.9 percent and Jackson finished with 31 points while Andre Drummond had 24 and 13 rebounds. Rookie Stanley Johnson had his first double-double with 19 and 10.

"We'll take it. We'll take .500 right now," said Jackson, who shot a combined 8 for 36 over his previous two. "But we think we're a better team. We've got a long way to go. We've still got to prove to ourselves we're better than this. We've just got to shore up some things offensively. We feel like we're getting better, but still have a long way to go."

Jackson scored a game-high 23 points in a 100-92 win over the Suns (8-10) on Nov. 6, and Marcus Morris added 20 in his return to Phoenix after being traded in the offseason.

Morris' twin brother, Markieff, demanded a trade out of Phoenix following that deal but ultimately remained with the Suns and scored 18 points in the first meeting.

Markieff is coming off back-to-back rough outings, though, after going 3 for 11 from the field and scoring six points in Tuesday's 94-91 loss to Brooklyn. He made just 3 of 12 from the floor in Sunday's loss to Toronto that began a six-game road trip.

Former Piston Brandon Knight scored 26 points against the Nets and Eric Bledsoe added 17 for Phoenix, which has dropped six of eight following a three-game winning streak.

''We gave up a (nine-point) lead,'' Knight said. ''We were up in the third (quarter), second half. We just stopped getting stops and they executed down the stretch, got the stops they wanted and they played better to close the game.''

Alex Len had 13 points and a career-best 14 rebounds starting in place of center Tyson Chandler for the third time in four games. Chandler first was dealing with an illness before suffering a right hamstring strain in Friday's loss to Golden State.

Chandler's status for this matchup is uncertain.

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