Pistons face Suns as Monty Williams returns to Phoenix

Monty Williams will make an emotional return to Phoenix on Wednesday night when the Detroit Pistons visit the Suns.Williams spent four seasons with the Suns and guided the club to the 2021 NBA Fina

Pistons face Suns as Monty Williams returns to Phoenix

Monty Williams will make an emotional return to Phoenix on Wednesday night when the Detroit Pistons visit the Suns.

Williams spent four seasons with the Suns and guided the club to the 2021 NBA Finals. He then guided Phoenix to a franchise-record 64 regular-season wins during the 2021-22 season when he was named NBA Coach of the Year.

But a 19-victory dropoff and a second-round playoff exit last season led to his dismissal despite a 194-115 record.

Still, Phoenix plans to show a tribute video in honor of Williams on a night in which both teams play their final game before the All-Star break.

“Monty was a huge part of setting the culture, setting the foundation and turning Phoenix basketball back into winning basketball,” Suns star guard Devin Booker said.

Phoenix has won six of its last eight games after producing a 130-125 home win over the Sacramento Kings. The Suns are 10 games over .500 under new coach Frank Vogel.

Williams is now engaged in a deep rebuilding job with the Pistons, who set a dubious NBA record with 28 consecutive losses earlier this season. The Pistons fell to an NBA-worst 8-45 after their 125-111 road loss Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Williams certainly turned the lights out on the dark days in Phoenix. His first season with the Suns marked the franchise’s sixth straight losing season.

The next season, Phoenix was two victories from its first NBA title before the Milwaukee Bucks won the next four contests to win the title.

Vogel has insisted the current Suns can make their own title run and that revolves around keeping Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal healthy.

But Beal strained his left hamstring during Tuesday’s game and has been ruled out against the Pistons. It continues an injury-plagued season for Beal, who has also missed time with back and ankle injuries.

Eric Gordon stepped up with Beal out and scored 23 points in 27 minutes.

Booker had 25 points against Sacramento to move into second place on the club’s all-time scoring list with 13,918 points. He passed Alvan Adams (13,910 from 1975-88).

Walter Davis is Phoenix’s all-time leader with 15,666 points from 1977-88.

Kevin Durant contributed 28 points and 11 rebounds for the Suns, who scored 38 points in the first quarter and 36 in the fourth while taking down the high-octane Kings.

“We were able to go blow-to-blow with them on making shots,” Durant said of Sacramento. “We made key stops down the stretch to get us some cushion. I’m glad we got the win.”

Detroit has lost five of its last seven games after Tuesday’s double-digit setback against the Lakers.

The Pistons trailed 71-48 at halftime behind shaky defense that disappointed Williams.

“We were out of position defensively from the start,” Williams said. “In the second half, we started to play our kind of basketball but we couldn’t shoot the ball.”

Rookie Ausar Thompson paced Detroit with 19 points and James Wiseman added 18 points and nine rebounds off the bench.

“They definitely jumped on us early on,” Thompson said of the Lakers. “They played very fast off makes and misses. Running up the court. … We have to do a better job executing and being ready to play.”

Jaden Ivey was just 5-of-16 shooting for 15 points after averaging 26.4 points over the previous five games.

Cade Cunningham (4 of 15) also was misfiring while scoring 12 points. He averaged 22.5 points over the previous two contests.

The Suns have won the past six meetings, including a 120-106 win in Detroit on Nov. 5. Durant scored 41 points to pace Phoenix, while Cunningham tallied 26 for the Pistons.