The Denver Nuggets are in Detroit tonight to play the Pistons. The game will have extra meaning for both franchises as the Pistons will honor former great Chauncey Billups by retiring his jersey. It's a classy move by Detroit to choose to have the ceremony tonight as the two franchises which Chauncey meant the most to will both be in the building. Beyond the festivities, the Nuggets will look to earn the season sweep of the Pistons with a win on the road tonight.
The Pistons sit teetering on the edge of playoff eligibility, currently holding the eighth position in the Eastern Conference by a 1/2 game over the Charlotte Hornets. After coming out of the gate fairly hot this season, Detroit's momentum has seriously cooled over the month of January and a lot of that can be credited to a sputtering defense. Coach Stan Van Gundy has noted the defensive effort from the Pistons has been wildly inconsistent and they have allowed 100+ points for seven straight games, a stark contrast to when they started the season.
Personnel wise the Pistons are based off their anchor in the post, Andre Drummond. While he has always been an excellent rebounder, Drummond's scoring has improved dramatically this season both in volume and efficiency. He's becoming arguably the best center in the NBA with his averages encroaching 20 points and 15 rebounds a game, unheard of numbers in this day and age. Drummond is supported by point guard Reggie Jackson, another guy who has improved his scoring in both volume and efficiency, and athletic Swiss Army knife rookie Stanley Johnson.
Who: Denver Nuggets (21-32) at Detroit Pistons (27-26)
When: 5:30 PM MST
Where: The Palace of Auburn Hills, Detroit MI
How to watch/listen: Altitude TV and KRWZ AM 950
Rival blog: Detroit Bad Boys
|Detroit Pistons||Denver Nuggets||Advantage|
|PG||Reggie Jackson||Emmanuel Mudiay||Pistons|
|SG||Stanley Johnson||Gary Harris||Nuggets|
|SF||Marcus Morris||Danilo Gallinari||Nuggets|
|PF||Ersan Ilyasova||Kenneth Faried||Nuggets|
|C||Andre Drummond||Nikola Jokic||Pistons|
Darrun Hilliard, Anthony Tolliver, Aron Baynes, Brandon Jennings, Reggie Bullock, Joel Anthony, Steve Blake
|Will Barton, Jusuf Nurkic, Randy Foye, Joffrey Lauvergne, Mike Miller, Darrell Arthur, J.J. Hickson, Jameer Nelson||Nuggets
Injured players: Jameer Nelson - questionable (wrist), Darrell Arthur - questionable (quad), Wilson Chandler - out (hip), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope - out (groin), Jodie Meeks - out (foot)
Key match up: Andre Drummond vs Nikola Jokic
The Jackson vs Emmanuel Mudiay match up is intriguing as well but Drummond vs Big Honey is by far the main event tonight. As stated above, Drummond is a beast and his strength down low could present issues for Jokic, who does not boast nearly as broad shoulders. However, Jokic has a distinct advantage in quickness on this match up and his skilled footwork in the post will help him. Still, despite the promising skills of the rookie, he's going to face an uphill battle tonight. Perhaps his best bet is to repeat the last meeting between the Pistons and Nuggets and look to get Drummond in foul trouble early.
Key thing to watch for: Bigs rotation
The Pistons are playing one of the larger starting lineups in the Association with Caldwell-Pope out. Stanley Johnson is really more of a three than a two, and Marcus Morris is really more of a four than a three, but each will play the over-sized role for their position tonight. Additionally, Ilyasova next to Drummond creates a twin tower scenario. It will be interesting to see how coach Michael Malone counters this. We've seen a lot of Jusuf Nurkic and Joffrey Lauvergne together in the past few games as Darrell Arthur recovers from injury and I'd expect to see more of the same if Arthur is a no go again tonight. We also might get to see some extended time of the Jokic/Nurkic pairing. The fit with those two in a lineup together is questionable (see: running ability, lack of) but its undoubtedly an intriguing combination of size and different skill sets.
Shout out to Mr. Big Shot
It's nice to see the hometown kid get his jersey retired by the team he meant the most to. I know it's somewhat controversial to say here in Denver, but Chauncey is a Piston first, there is no doubt about that and what he did for that franchise can not be understated. That's not to say he didn't do plenty for the Nuggets either. His leadership and playing ability were the key components to Denver's 09' Western Conference Finals run. I personally will never forget the first game of that playoff run where Chauncey threw down 8-9 shooting from beyond the arc. It was in that moment right there that all of Denver realized they finally had someone they could go to in the playoffs for scoring other than Carmelo Anthony.
Prediction: Drummond gets revenge, Nuggets lose 106-101.