The Detroit Pistons played host Thursday night to the best the Western Conference has to offer and the results were about what you’d expect. Nikola Jokic, the reigning and back-to-back MVP, finished one assist shy of a triple double as the Denver Nuggets pulled away from the Pistons to win 119-100 to end their four-game losing streak.
With Jaden Ivey back after missing the last few games with injury, Detroit played competitively for the first three quarters. They even lead by as many as seven points at one point in the second half. The game had 16 lead changes but Detroit’s inexperience showed up eventually and the veteran-laden Denver squad pulled away rather easily midway through the fourth quarter.
Detroit was still very much short handed with Marvin Bagley III, Bojan Bogdanovic, Alec Burks, Hamidou Diallo and Isaiah Livers all missing this one with injuries going up against a Nuggets team eager to end their recent losing stretch. The win clinched the Northwest division with a few weeks still remaining in the season. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope finished with 20 points, Jamal Murray had 19 and Aaron Gordon 15.
The Pistons were able to find scoring once again from Rodney McGruger, who finished with 20 points and shot 6-of-10 shooting from three. The sixth-year wing has been one of the few bright spots in the recent stretch for Detroit, averaging 18 points per game and hitting 58% of his threes in the last three games with added playing time.
As Marvin Bagley continues to rehab an ankle injury, the James Wiseman and Jalen Duren combination continues to show flashes of reliability down the stretch. Wiseman had 14 points and nine rebounds, while Duren scored 15 and grabbed 13 rebounds off the bench. Defensively, Jokic made the young bigs look foolish at times, but that’s par for the course.
Jalen Duren to James Wiseman lob my goodness this is what we’ve been waiting for— Pistons Talk (@Pistons__Talk) March 17, 2023
The score was tied at 91 with 9:37 left to play in the game before Denver went on a 28-9 run to close it out. It’s tough to critique the closing play of the young Pistons team, who really only featured one player that has been used to playing in closing situations this year (Ivey). Getting minutes late for some of the other guys should be beneficial moving forward.
One of the highlights of the game came actually from a Cade Cunningham interview with the Pistons PA announcers, where the former No. 1 pick gave an update on his rehabilitation process. “I’m happy I got the surgery done,” Cunningham said. “The first couple of weeks were tough, not being able to move like I wanted to... I’m at a good spot tight now where I can move more and shoot jump shots.”
Detroit continues to do exactly what they need to do in staying competitive through these games while continue to pile on losses and ensure their draft position. With just 11 games remaining, the Pistons still has the league’s worst record and play plenty of fringe playoff teams coming up who will be looking for wins. They will play Miami on Sunday at Little Ceasers Arena.