When the Denver Nuggets take on the Detroit Pistons tonight they will be coming off a big road win over the Suns. This is what I like to call a trap game ladies and gentlemen.
The Pistons (23-42) are playing the second night in a back to back (losing to the Thunder the night before) and should be quite tired coming in to Denver. Should be a piece of cake right? Right? OF COURSE it should be. There's no reason the Nuggets should lose this game. While the Nuggets have been playing the "right" way since the Carmelo Anthony trade was consummated nearly three weeks ago, we all know that NBA teams have let downs. Let's hope tonight isn't one of them
The Pistons are just talented enough to pose some problems for the Nuggets with talented players such as Ben Gordon, (the corpse of) Tracy McGrady, Tayshaun Prince, Jason Maxiell and Austin Daye. Problem is they seem to have more cohesion issues than a PTA meeting with no cookies and punch. Coach John Kuester is either a good coach saddled with malcontent players, or he's a bad coach who doesn't know how to handle NBA players. Either way, things arent good.
All of this, of course, centers on Richard Hamilton and his desire to be traded out of the Pistons organization. Disputes have happened, and Hamilton seems to be in permanent Stephan Marbury territory on the bench. Earning money for doing nothing. All of which has to be very distracting for the team which is currently competing for the most ping pong balls in David Stern's absurd draft lottery. I feel bad for the organization, but at the same time there's a bit of "reaping what you sew" with the poor free agent signings (Gordon and Charlie Villanueva) and watching your team grow old before your eyes.
Joe Dumars was being hailed as a genius as little as 4 seasons ago. The Pistons were in the middle of a six-straight conference finals (two finals) streak that was quite impressive, but losing Chauncey Billups seems to have made their mental toughness collapse. There's talent on the roster, but moves need to be made to accompany that talent.
Nuggets of Wisdom
In an interesting way, I think the five day break the Nuggets had in between the loss to the Clippers last week and Thursday night's game against the Suns was one of the best things that could have happened to this new-look Nuggets team. Apparently the team spent a day on offensive sets and motion, as well as a day just on defensive sets. It clearly paid off against the suns. Every Nugget had a solid game, with Nene leading the way with 22 points in 26 minutes.
Not only that, but Al Harrington had his most productive game since the Melo trade ... which boggled my mind. It wasn't scintillating but he at least didn't suck the life out of the team while he was on the court. Chris Andersen had another good game. Kenyon Martin continues to thrive in his new "leadership" role on this Nuggets team. Wilson Chandler had another solid game ... and despite my protestations the dual point guard lineup of Raymond Felton and Ty Lawson actually has been quite productive in the last couple game. While I doubt it's long term veracity it's nice to see BOTH Ty and Ray benefiting from it at the moment.
It can be said that George Karl is coaching his best basketball since he came to Denver at the tail end of 2004. Rejuvenated with a fresh contract extension he has been a mad hatter with experimental lineups and sticking to a "small ball" lineup despite the loud protestations of Stiffs for the likes of Timofey Mozgov. It's worked so far, so he deserves the credit for sticking to his guns.
The Nuggets can and SHOULD win this game tonight. No excuses for losing. They are the better team and should demonstrate it from the opening tip. It will go a long way to proving how the long-term viability of this team shapes up. With Danilo Gallinari most likely returning for the upcoming east coast road trip it will be interesting to find out how these Nuggets respond tonight.
Oppositions Take: Detroit Bad Boys