The Detroit Pistons came to Denver without a win in the Mile High City since 2009 and without a win on the road this season, but were able to break both of those streaks with a (-) victory over the Nuggets Saturday night.
The Nuggets started off the game with a Mudiay-Harris-Gallinari-Faried-Nurkic lineup, choosing to bring Nikola Jokic off the bench and mercifully putting the Balkan Buddy Ball lineup to rest (at least for one game). While there were different players on the court, the Nuggets first quarter woes repeated themselves as they started the game listless and careless with the basketball.
The Pistons were able to knock down open jumper after open jumper and ran to an early 36-21 lead after one.
Things were better for the Nuggets in the second quarter, as Coach Malone kept part of the starting lineup glued to the bench and let the Baby Bunch give things a go. Juancho Hernangomez was a huge spark for the team, and the Nuggets went on an 18-4 run with the Spaniard in the game.
The team gave up another small run to close out the quarter once the starting lineup checked back into the game, and the Pistons had a 57-49 lead at halftime.
The third quarter got off to an explosive start with Gallinari going SportsCenter Top 10 with a reverse jam over Aron Baynes.
Unfortunately, Gallinari’s big play didn’t solve the Nuggets turnover problems, and the team continued to fumble the ball away, making it impossible to maintain momentum.
Emmanuel Mudiay, while struggling with turnovers again, hit his fourth 3-pointer of the game in the third quarter. That’s a new career-high for 3-pointers in a game for Mudiay, which I don’t know whether to be excited or disappointed about - four isn’t really that many in a league where the Rockets just finished a game with 47 3-point attempts.
The Nuggets tried closing the gap with some attempts from the perimeter, but their defensive execution on Marcus Morris and Stanley Johnson was lacking.
What wasn’t lacking was amazing basketball from Hernangomez, who stuffed home an offensive rebound that had the thousands of fans in the Pepsi Center on their feet.
A Danilo Gallinari 3-pointer with 4:24 left cut the Pistons lead to 93-89, but the Nuggets starting power forward had dinner reservations and he didn’t want to miss them.
The Pistons carved the Nuggets defense up down the stretch, with Tobias Harris and Andre Drummond getting whatever they wanted on offense. The Nuggets couldn’t make shots, couldn’t get stops, and they couldn’t close the gap.
The Nuggets need to play angry from the opening tip. This was something that Will Barton talked about during a guest appearance on the Altitude broadcast. The team opens the game playing like they want to be literally anywhere else but on the basketball court.
That’s not a problem with players like Will Barton, who plays with a chip on his shoulder all of the time, but comes off the bench for the Nuggets. When the Nuggets learn to start coming out giving a crap, let the good people of Denver know, and maybe they’ll start coming out to Nuggets home games.
What a disaster Balkan Buddy Ball has been. The Nuggets two big men finished with six points and seven rebounds - combined. I’m not going to question the ability of either Jokic or Nurkic to have success - they’ve each done it individually. When neither player is put in a position to succeed, that falls on the guys in suits on the bench.
It’s like the Nuggets coaching staff spent all offseason poring over the features that their “new” Motorola Razr flip-phone has, only to wake up in 2016 and realize that this company called Apple released their seventh edition of this thing called an “iPhone” and it’s freaking amazing.
Maybe the Nuggets players need a kick in the pants - hopefully that doesn’t mean that a coaching change is required.
Juancho is going to be a fan favorite. He can score, rebound, pass, dribble, and he hustles. It’s exciting to watch him play, and I can’t say that about all the players on the roster.
And to think, he wasn’t even expected to be on the opening day roster after he was drafted. He belongs, and he’s playing his way into more minutes - there’s a lot blocking him from getting on the court though.