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Pistons vs. Nuggets Preview: Detroit looks for rebound win as road stretch continues

Game one of back-to-back against Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets

Denver Nuggets v Detroit Pistons Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

The Detroit Pistons end their West Coast road trip Sunday in Denver as they play underdog to the Nuggets. This is game one of a back-to-back home and away series, as Detroit will play host to Denver on Tuesday.

Last time out, the Pistons suffered a hard-fought loss against the Utah Jazz in the third of four straight road contests out west. The Pistons will look to end that stretch on a high note, coincidentally in the Mile High City.

Detroit will try to get a rebound win against a Denver lineup featuring MVP candidate Nikola Jokic, who enters tonight’s game with four stright triple-doubles.

Game Vitals

When: 8 p.m. ET
Where: Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit
Odds: Pistons +11.5

Analysis

The Nuggets come into tonight’s game having won five of their last eight but dropping their most recent contest to the Memphis Grizzlies. Jokic has turned up his MVP candidacy as of late, highlighted by a 49-point, 14-rebound and 10-assist showing in a win against the Los Angeles Clippers earlier this week.

On the year, Jokic is averaging 25.9 points, 13.9 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game. In other words, Isaiah Stewart, Trey Lyles and any other Pistons player with the unfortunate task of defending “The Joker” tonight will have their hands full.

Outside of Jokic’s dominant play, there hasn’t been a ton for Denver fans to cheer about this year. Pegged as a top contender coming into the season, the Nuggets find themselves ranked sixth in the Western Conference standings, hovering around .500 with a 23-21 record. They remain without two of their top scorers in Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr.

You can bet that the Nuggets would like to take care of business against a less talented Detroit squad.

For the Pistons, Kelly Olynyk has entered the NBA’s COVID health and safety protocols after playing just two games in his return from a knee injury. He’ll join Jerami Grant, Frank Jackson and possibly Killian Hayes among the Pistons’ inactive players. Hayes is questionable with a hip contusion that has kept him out two games to this point.

Offensively, the Pistons will likely have to be carried by Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey and Hamidou Diallo, all of whom should be featured heavily in the Pistons starting lineup. Expect Cory Joseph and Trey Lyles to get a lot of minutes as well, they will likely be carrying the bench load though the former will be in the starting group.

In Friday’s loss against the Jazz, Cunningham filled the stat sheet with 25 points, six rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals while shooting 11-of-23 from the field. The first half was probably his finest in a Pistons uniform, as he was the most impactful player on the court and was efficient doing it. He seemed to have lost his legs a tad while surpassing 40 minutes played in that game, so it will be interesting to see if he can come out with the same juice tonight.

A large determining factor in tonight’s game will be how well the Pistons are able to contain Jokic. If the Pistons can swarm him on defense and slow him down, Denver’s supporting cast is not as dangerous as some contending teams. If the big man is getting whatever he wants, it may be a long game for Detroit fans.

Either way, the Pistons will come out tonight looking to set the tone in the first of a two-game series against the Nuggets.

Projected Lineups

Denver Nuggets (23-21)

Monte Morris, Will Barton, Jeff Green, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Jokic

Detroit Pistons (11-34)

Cade Cunningham, Cory Joseph, Hamidou Diallo, Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart

Question of the Day

Do the Pistons have the legs to make tonight’s game competitive on the back end of a long road trip?