Tonight at 7:00pm EST the Pistons will be hosting the Denver Nuggets at the LCA. The Pistons are on one day of rest after losing to the Celtics on Sunday, as are the Nuggets after losing to the Pacers.
The Nuggets are a good team that is still trying to fit some pieces together, but their two best players are out with injury in Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap. Millsap is a brilliant defender and a cagey offensive player who gave the Nuggets a real nice option to relieve Jokic of having to create too much offense, while Jokic is already one of the best passing big men in NBA history and can also drop buckets on occasion. Millsap has been out for a while and will be out a couple of months yet, while Jokic will be missing (I believe) his 6th game but may be back fairly soon.
The Nuggets feature the 8th best offense in the NBA at 107.1 points per 100 possessions, while sporting the 25th defense at 107.8 points per 100 possessions.
Once again, they've been missing Millsap for a bit so but the combination of him and Jokic being out is a problem for them. Gary Harris is an awesome role player but he is a role player, consider him like a not as good defensive version of Avery Bradley. (To be clear, Harris is a solid defender, just not Avery Bradley good which isn't an insult) He can get some buckets and do good things but he isn't exactly an ideal focal point. Will Barton can get buckets in a wide variety of ways as a classic off the bench gunner although he has started the last 3 games so I would expect he will again tonight. Wilson Chandler is a swiss army knife wing player who is still very good. Beyond those three it gets a bit shaky for the Nuggets without Millsap and Jokic. Jamal Murray is still theoretically going to be a excellent long-gunning guard but he is shooting just 30.8% from deep this year and struggles with actual point guard stuff, Emmanuel Mudiay is a great athlete who may well end up being good at some point, he also is bizzarely shooting really well from deep (41.9%) and crap from inside the arc (38.6% on twos) while also struggling with point guard things. Mason Plumlee is still around being a decently skilled offensive big who is also smart but limited defensively. Kenneth Faried can rebound, Trey Lyles can shoot, Malik Beasley looks decent as a 21 year old.
This team was kind of on the border of being good or kind of mediocre with Millsap and Jokic while they figured out what to do about their point guard situation while also having Millsap and Jokic learn to play together well, with these injuries they definitely are leaning towards that mediocre now.
Matchups to watch:
Andre Drummond vs. The fishing village: After a tough game against the Celtics, Drummond should have a great chance to bounce back in a big way. The Nuggets will spend most of the game with Mason Plumlee at center with occasional bouts of possibly trying to go small with Faried, Lyles, or Hernangomez. Drummond has a history of slaughtering Plumlee, and should have little trouble with anything else they put out there.
Reggie Jackson vs. Bouncing back: Reggie was hot garbage the last game, there is no way around it. Fortunately tonight he gets to go against quite possibly the weakest point guard rotation among teams actually trying to win and he has a history of bouncing back in big ways. The combination of bad point guards and a total lack of rim protection would suggest he should be able to largely have his way.
Bradley/Johnson vs. Harris/Barton: Harris and Barton are not ideal as primary options, but the Nuggets are probably going to have to lean heavily on them. Even if they are not ideal, they both have real skills that you can't sleep on. Bradley and Johnson are good enough defensively that they should be able to keep them locked up, if they can manage that I don't see how the Nuggets score.
Pistons vs. Getting back on track: Originally this game would be the last one in the murder's row of the schedule, with Jokic and Millsap out however this should count as the start of things being easier. It was a rough stretch where they lost a bunch of close games to good teams, turn around and clean up on some bad teams and all is well, continue to struggle and it is officially time to worry.
So in conclusion...
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
Reggie Jackson bounce back game.
The Nuggets just cannot find buckets as Harris and Barton are largely held in check.
Run for the hills if:
insert random guy here starts to hit tough shots to give them a source of offense.
The Pistons offense struggles to get good looks against a bad defensive team.
The Pistons are missing easy shots because the basketball gods hate them.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Drummond and Jackson both bounce back in big ways.
The Nuggets struggle hugely to create consistent offense other than Will Barton just being awesome.
One of the Pistons shooter types has a big game.
The Nuggets don't get anything going offensively and don't have the defense to make up for it, Pistons win comfortably.
Pistons 109 – Nuggets 95.
What do you think? Can the Pistons stop the skid? Can the Nuggets find some offense?