Following Detroit’s epic collapse to the Clippers on Saturday, team morale was at a season low. One way remedy to the ole’ Detroit meltdown blues would be to will a win against the Western Conference’s best team, the Denver Nuggets, and that’s exactly what they did. In fact, they didn’t even have to fight tooth and nail to secure the victory, which is a sight for sore eyes, seeing how the Pistons have let most of their big leads slip, making for unnecessary nail-biters throughout the course of the season so far.
It should be noted that the Nuggets were without three of their key players in, Gary Harris, Jamal Murray and Paul Millsap. Most of Denver’s production came from their All-Star big man Nikola Jokic (16 points, 3 rebounds, and 4 assists), and the Flint Beecher product, Monte Morris (18 points, 3 assists).
Initially it looked like the Pistons were going to get in a track meet against the NBA’s third best offensive units, which, on most nights, would favor the Nuggets, but the home team was humming early and didn’t let their focus wane. Detroit allowed 36 first quarter points, but tightened up their defense early in the second quarter. They built a double digit lead early into the second frame, and took a thirteen point lead to locker room at the half.
At this point, most of their on court success was due to the Blake Griffin stuffing the stat sheet. Griffin finished the night with 17 points, 7 rebound and 4 assists. The question was (and will continue to be) who else will produce alongside him?
Andre Drummond was a force on both ends of the floor in the third quarter, and, frankly, for most minutes he was on the hardwood. He singlehandedly kept the Pistons' heads above water, when it looked like the Nuggets were ready to go on a run. Drummond gobbled up offensive boards and put backs, had his hands active in passing lanes, and was efficient in the post. Drummond’s 27 points, and 12 boards were anything but quiet and contributed to Detroit scoring 97 points at the end of the third quarter.
The Pistons bench was coming off one of their worst performances of the year, but responded with one of their best games, as they combined for 60 points. In fact, the trio of Reggie Jackson, Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin didn’t even have to step on the floor for the entire 4th quarter. The bench was led by Stanley Johnson, who played his best game of the season, dropping 21 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block. Langston Galloway caught fire, he hit three of his eight 3-point attempts, and finished the night with 18 points. We also had a Luke Kennard sighting tonight, he chipped in 14 points, knocked down a couple of 3s and shot 5/9 from the floor.
Detroit clobbered Denver, 129-103. Their next two games are certainly winnable, starting tomorrow night in New York against the lowly Knicks. They’ll play the Knicks again on Friday night in Detroit.