The Denver Nuggets' lengthy road trips passes by Detroit tonight as they are set to take on the Detroit Pistons. The Nuggets are coming into this matchup with a 2-2 record after barely scratching out a win against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday night. The Pistons lost their first game against the Toronto Raptors and most recent game against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday but won three straight in between those two matches. They are led by rebounding-machine Andre Drummond (a whopping 13.6 a game) and leading scorers Tobias Harris and the always feisty Marcus Morris. Harris is averaging 20.8 points a game with a 58.2% field-goal percentage and an impressive 52.9% from the three-point range. Danilo Gallinari will certainly have his hands full tonight from the defensive end.
The Nuggets, who are expected to once again be without guards Gary Harris and Will Barton, will try to get something more out of the struggling rookie Jamal Murray. He played a career-high 29 minutes against the Timberwolves but was still not able to find the basket. It will also be interesting to see who Michael Malone goes to off the bench since Harris and Barton will most likely be out and Darrell Arthur will still play limited minutes. We could see even more of Juancho Hernangomez or maybe get our first taste of Malik Beasley.
The one thing this Nuggets team has over the Pistons is depth, but it's going to be crucial that the Nuggets win the matchup against the starters. If they do that, they have a good chance of winning this game and finishing the first half of the road trip the right way.
|PG||Emmanuel Mudiay||Ish Smith||Even|
|SG||Jamal Murray||Kentavious Caldwell-Pope||Pistons|
|SF||Danilo Gallinari||Tobias Harris||Even|
|PF||Nikola Jokic||Marcus Morris||Nuggets|
|C||Jusuf Nurkic||Andre Drummond||Even|
|Key Bench Guys||Jameer Nelson, Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez||Jon Leuer, Aron Baynes, Stanley Johnson, Beno Udrih||Nuggets|
Three Things to Keep an Eye on:
So far this season, the Nuggets have not been very good at guarding the opposing team's best player. They have allowed Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, DeMar DeRozan, and Karl-Anthony Towns to all score above 30 points, including a 50-point game by Davis. The Pistons do not have anybody that is as big a threat as any of these players, especially considering Harris is leading the team in scoring but many would probably not even consider him the team's best player. That role may go to Drummond, although he is only averaging 12.6 points per game this season. Extraordinarily enough, however, he's averaging even more rebounds. While the Nuggets will have to work hard to keep him off the glass so that he does not become too big of a factor, they will also have to make sure to keep Harris, Morris, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope from catching fire. Both Morris twins seem to always get fired up when playing against the Nuggets, so let's hope that doesn't happen tonight with Marcus. It's one thing to let a superstar like Lillard or Davis go off, it's a whole other to let a role player do it.
Denver's fourth quarter struggles
Last year, the Nuggets really struggled coming out of the gate after halftime. Their third quarters were atrocious, as there were multiple occasions that the team struggled to score and would let the other team run wild. This season, it is the fourth quarter that appears to be their achilles heal. So far this season, the Nuggets are only averaging 17.5 points a game in the fourth. They have been outscored in the final quarters by an average of 4.75 points a game, including a -10 difference against the Timberwolves. If you do some simple math, this is pretty frustrating. The Nuggets are averaging 106 points a game, and they are only scoring 16.5% of those points in the fourth. If they got closer to their average of 29.5 points in each of the other quarters, not only would the Nuggets be undefeated but they would have won by a semi-comfortable margin in each game as well. Contending teams execute down the stretch and if the Nuggets want to make the playoffs, this has to be one of their major goals. Let's see if the team looks improved in this area tonight.
PREDICTION: Nuggets 105, Pistons 96.
UPDATE: According to Denver Post's Chris Dempsey, Gary Harris is available tonight!