Pistons try to stop slide against Suns

The playoff prospects of the Detroit Pistons seemed bright entering the week.

The Pistons had reached the .500 mark and moved up to seventh in the Eastern Conference standings. As they head into a Sunday matchup with the Phoenix Suns at the Palace in Auburn Hills, Mich., the Pistons find themselves in a precarious spot.

A three-game losing streak -- all by double digits -- has dropped them out of the top eight in the standings. With 13 games remaining, the Pistons (33-36) need a strong finish to secure a playoff berth for the second straight year.

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Point guard Reggie Jackson struck an optimistic tone following an 87-75 home loss to Toronto on Friday night.

"We are not panicking," Jackson said. "Everybody has had their run, so 13 games left, I know in my mind I am bound to make one before it happens, so I am good.

"I plan to be in the playoffs. We are going to keep chasing it each and every day. I love my team and they are optimistic, just as much as I am. We are going to keep attacking this."

That positive outlook will dissipate if the Pistons don't solve their offensive woes. They are shooting 38.1 percent during the slide and scored a season-low in points against the Raptors.

The Pistons were held to three points in the final 9:31, missing 13 of their last 14 shots and committing three turnovers.

"It's frustrating because I thought our guys put out a really good defensive effort," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "I thought they really worked hard defensively and I thought we made it tough on them until the last few minutes of the game.

"Our offense is just nowhere to be found."

The Suns might be just what Detroit needs to regain its shooting touch. Phoenix ranks in the bottom three league-wide in points allowed and defensive field-goal percentage.

Phoenix (22-47) has lost five of its last six, including its last three. The Suns are coming off a 109-103 home loss to Orlando on Friday night.

That was their second outing since the team's brass decided to shut down point guard Eric Bledsoe for the remainder of the season, partially because of left knee soreness and also to take a longer look at rookie Tyler Ulis.

Ulis played 40 minutes against the Magic, posting 19 points and eight assists.

"I think I'm playing pretty well," Ulis told the Arizona Republic. "I just need to adjust to my new role. (Coach Earl Watson) wants me to be a lot more aggressive coming out. I'm used to coming in as the backup, facilitating and getting guys involved early. I'm just trying to adjust to it."

There are also injury concerns regarding shooting guard Devin Booker. He was held to 10 points by Orlando and admitted that he's dealing with ankle and Achilles issues.

"Most games (the ankle) loosens up and then I'm able to go," Booker told the Republic. "It was stiff most of the night. Came back here (to the locker room) and tried to work on it and just couldn't get it going."

The Suns won the first meeting, 107-100, in Phoenix when they were closer to full strength. Detroit has won four of the last five meetings at The Palace.