The Detroit Pistons have played well over the last two weeks. Whether they've improved enough to beat the team with the NBA's best record remains to be seen.
Hoping to turn things around on the road, the Pistons try for a third consecutive victory Friday night while looking to avoid a sixth straight defeat to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Coming off a fourth straight losing season, Detroit (5-11) promptly started 0-8, but has since won five of eight and two in a row for the first time. Brandon Knight and Charlie Villanueva each had 19 points Wednesday and Rodney Stuckey added 18 as the Pistons went 12 of 16 from 3-point range in a 117-77 rout of Phoenix.
It was the club's most lopsided victory since beating Milwaukee 114-69 on Dec. 31, 2007.
"A lot of good play from a lot of good guys," coach Lawrence Frank said. "You don't have a lot of games like this, but obviously a lot of bright spots that we've got to keep on building on."
Frank's team is averaging 99.1 points on 48.2 percent shooting in the last eight games after putting up 91.3 and shooting 41.9 percent in the first eight, with six of those on the road. Detroit allowed 101.5 points per game during the 0-8 start, but has yielded 93.5 since.
The Pistons have won four straight at home, but they are still 1-8 and looking to avoid a third consecutive defeat on the road.
"We've started to put together better play at home, now we have to take the show on the road against two of the better teams," Frank said of the brief trip to Memphis (11-2) and Dallas. "One that's arguably the best team in the Western Conference."
The Pistons certainly face a daunting task against a Memphis club that has allowed 89.4 points per game while posting a 7-1 home mark. Detroit has averaged 88.0 points while losing its last five overall to the Grizzlies by an average margin of 13.8.
Memphis flexed its defensive muscle Wednesday night when it forced 11 turnovers and held Toronto to 30.6 percent shooting in the second half of a 103-82 victory. Set to conclude a five-game homestand, the Grizzlies have won three in a row since a 97-92 loss to Denver on Nov. 19.
"Everybody is playing well," forward Rudy Gay told the Grizzlies' official website. "We have great continuity. The starters have really challenged the team and we are playing great together."
Marreese Speights had 18 points with 12 rebounds off the bench Wednesday while Zach Randolph added 17 points and 13 boards for Memphis, which has won 18 of 19 regular-season home games.
A knee injury forced Randolph to miss both meetings with Detroit last season, but the former Michigan State star has averaged 26.3 points and 14.7 boards in his last three games against the Pistons.
Knight is averaging 22.0 points on 53.7 percent shooting - including 9 of 14 from 3-point range - in Detroit's last three contests overall. He averaged 18.5 points versus Memphis last season but went 11 of 34 (32.4 percent) from the field and 1 of 6 from beyond the arc.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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