Playing in Denver has historically been a tall-task for the Detroit Pistons, who haven’t won at Ball Arena since 2016. With the Nugget’s returning their regular starters, and Detroit missing three of their starting five, it could have easily turned into a bloodbath. Luckily for Detroit, some unexpected performances led to a much needed 110-108 win.
Detroit fought hard all night. Throughout most of the game, they were the faster, more energized team, but when the game got tight down the stretch, so did the Pistons. Their offense sputtered half-way through the fourth quarter, and their double-digit lead eventually dwindled down to just one point, with a minute and a half to go.
With Detroit losing their last seven games, it would have been no surprise if they simply bowed out - but the Pistons had other plans. Alec Burks hit a couple clutch free throws, and an even more clutch basket, cushioning Detroit’s lead to 5 points. This, plus Bojan Bogdanovic (who led all Detroit scorers with 22 points) knocking down a couple from the stripe with under a minute to play, proved to be just enough, as the Pistons went on to escape and snap their losing streak.
The story of the night was all about Detroit’s bench . They were productive as soon as they checked in the game, continued to produce throughout the second half and went on to put up 53 points. The aforementioned Burks poured in 21 points on 7-13 shooting from field, and seemed to come up with the goods every time the Pistons were in need of a bucket. He was flanked alongside Kevin Knox, who easily had his best game as a Piston, both on the offensive side and defensive side of the floor. Knox was active, he rebounded, he defended, he scored - and Detroit needed every single one of his 17 points and 8 rebounds.
The unsung hero of the game for Detroit was Killian Hayes, and while he had some untimely turnovers late in the game, ultimately leading to him being pulled during the games waning moments, he spurred the Pistons’ offense throughout the third quarter (6 assists in that frame) and consistently played solid defense on Jamal Murray, who only managed to score 10 points on 3-12 shooting from the floor. Hayes led all Pistons with 9 assists and chipped in 9 points.
As for the Nuggets, back-to-back MVP, Nikola Jokic gave Detroit everything they could handle. Marvin Bagley III and Jalen Duren were tasked with defending the Nuggets All-NBA center, but were simply no match. Denver’s offense was funneled through Jokic early and often, and it felt as if he accounted for damn near every Nugget basket. He punished Detroit in the paint, and regularly found his teammates for easy dunks and open threes, although Denver was only able to knock down 5-19 from deep. Jokic lit up the Pistons to the tune of 31 points, 10 assists and 9 rebounds - but it simply wasn’t enough.
Detroit will look to continue their winning ways tomorrow night against the Utah Jazz.