And so we embark on another 82 games of masculine fanboying over adrenalin-infused superhumans. Imagine if Andre Drummond was a bank teller, or Josh Smith worked in aeronautical engineering (if you get this you're really cool and super awesome). It only makes sense for these 2-meter-plus beings to play on the hardwood, and thus it means that they return home, well, away from home, to Denver. Enough of my incessant, incoherent rambling, let's talk about the game.
Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, Colo.
When: Wednesday, Oct. 29, 9 p.m. ET.
Watch: No more sitting in the front row craning your neck to look at the jumbotron, as this game is gloriously televised on Fox Sports Detroit. Or, you know, if you like radio, 105.1 FM is cool, too.
Read: SB Nation's Nuggets blog, Denver Stiffs
Exceptionally Detailed Analysis
The Pistons come into game No. 1 on the back of a strong preseason, going 5-2, although it could have easily been 6-1 if not for circumstances at Washington. Seven Pistons averaged double figures in preseason play, including starters Kyle Singler (10.1), Josh Smith (11.0), Andre Drummond (14.9) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (16.7). Brandon Jennings struggled with his shot, only averaging 8.8 points, but he did lead the team with 7.3 assists per game, and D.J Augustin closely followed with 6.1, ranking second and fifth among the NBA's preseason leaders, respectively.
The team wrapped up their preseason campaign with a 109-103 win over Philadelphia at the Palace, where Kyle Singler led the team with 19 points, Caron Butler hit 18 off the bench, and Josh Smith, Andre Drummond and D.J. Augustin all had double-doubles. The Pistons definitely made strides in the preseason, finishing 17th in points per game, but more impressively, 10th in points allowed, and 7th in opponent FG%. They were also 3rd in assists per game, and 8th in rebounds and turnovers per game. They even improved on their 29th place 3-point shooting rank up to a tie for 14th, hitting .345 from deep. However, the struggles from the line continued, the team actually IMPROVING, rising all the way up to a heady 29th in preseason rankings, going .675 from the charity stripe.
The Nuggets enter the contest on the back of a preseason where they went a dismal 2-6, their wins coming against decent opposition in the Thunder and the Clippers. Their main goal was to get minutes into their injury brigade, which they did, with the likes of Nate Robinson, Danilo Gallinari, J.J. Hickson and JaVale McGee getting valuable playing time.
The Nuggets were one of the better defensive teams in terms of interior defense, going 4th in preseason in opponent FG%, but 17th in opponent 3PT%. Add to that the fact that they sometimes struggled to score, finishing 23rd with 95.4 points per game, and 24th in points allowed per game with 99.4. Interestingly enough, they were the only team the Pistons ranked ahead of in terms of FT%, the Nuggets bringing up the NBA with a dismal .673 success rate from the line in preseason.
The Nuggets actually have a rather young team as well, with their most experienced player being Nate Robinson, who is only entering his 10th season. However, besides Josh Smith (11th season) and Caron Butler (13th season), the Pistons are more youthful, with three sophomores and one rookie, and the most experienced player apart from the aforementioned duo being Joel Anthony (8th season).
Players to Watch
Pistons: Josh Smith
I could've put Andre Drummond here, but I think it will be interesting to see how Smith performs without the spectre of Monroe hanging over him. Smith knows that if he plays really well, he'll become undroppable for the near future. Conversely, if he has a typical 20 points on 20 shots night, Monroe will be back in the lineup faster than Smith can jack up a long two, and that's pretty fast. All the motivation is there for Smith, it's just up to him to take it. If he plays well, then the team benefits as we'll have two starter quality PFs to joust for one spot. Play badly, and the trade talk will increase. One thing's for certain, SVG won't allow Smith free reign in this offense.
Nuggets: Ty Lawson
I like Ty Lawson. I like him very much. I nearly put former Piston and returning Nugget Arron Afflalo here, but I like Lawson too much. He's my type of player, body wise. Short (I am slightly taller) and with a very average wingspan (about the same as his height, rare for NBA players). Nonetheless, he's one of those oft-spoken about "second-tier" PGs, along with guys like Kyle Lowry and Kemba Walker. He's very intelligent, and uses his speed and ball handling to manufacture shots for himself that shouldn't be there. He will also be a test defensively for Brandon Jennings.
Last Time We Met
NEW SEGMENT ALERT!!! The last meeting between these two teams was March 19 in Denver, when the Nuggets won 118-109. Aaron Brooks (now with the Bulls) destroyed us with 27 points and 17 assists. Greg Monroe led the Pistons with 22, whilst Will Bynum had his first double-double for the season and Charlie Villanueva had a season-high 13 points. At this point in the season the Pistons were 25-42, and therefore would go the rest of the way 4-11.
I could go either way here, but one thing history has told us in recent times is that games between these two teams tend to be fairly high scoring. Remember, the highest scoring game in NBA history was a 186-184 Pistons triple-overtime win over Denver. In that game, Isiah Thomas led the team with 47, John Long added 41 and Kelly Tripucka with a lazy 35. For the Nuggets, Kiki Vandeweghe had a game high 51, with Alex English coming in silver with 47 and Dan Issel an embarrassing 28. Remarkably, only two 3-pointers were made that game, one for each team (I. Thomas, Richard Anderson). Anyway, for tomorrow, I predict that we will carry our momentum into the regular season with a tough win.
Pistons 117 - 106 Nuggets
We already know the Pistons lineup, and the Nuggets is based off their game notes on NBA.com.
Pistons: Jennings, Caldwell-Pope, Singler, Smith, Drummond
Nuggets: Lawson, Afflalo, Gallinari, Faried, Mozgov
Pistons: Meeks (back), Martin (plantar fascia strain, right foot - questionable), Monroe (suspended)
Nuggets: No concerns
Will Josh Smith step up and perform big while Greg Monroe is out suspended?