Opponent Scouting: Denver Nuggets. (49-23)
Tonight at 9:00pm EST the Pistons are on the road once again to face the Nuggets of Denver. The Pistons are on one day of rest after losing to the Warriors and the Nuggets are on also on one day of rest after getting blown out by Indiana.
The Nuggets are really good. They come into this game with the 5th best offensive efficiency in the NBA and the 10th best defensive efficiency, which puts them barely behind Golden State at the top of the Western Conference.
They are led by NIkola Jokic, who is averaging 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists per game. He is the center of just about everything the Nuggets do on offense. A good scorer when he decides to be one and possibly the greatest passing big-man ever, he should also be getting more talk for MVP than he has gotten. Jamal Murray is a good shooter who shoots a lot, he’s improved on his passing although playing next to Jokic means he doesn’t actually have to do that much point-guard stuff. Murray doesn’t get to the line much which keeps him from being overly efficient, as when he runs into nights where the shot isn’t falling he doesn’t have much fall-back. On the other hand, when he gets hot he can score in BUNCHES. Think of him almost like a better version of KCP his last season with the Pistons but he gets to shoot like 17 times per game.
Gary Harris is a good shooter (although he’s struggled a bit this season) and great cutter. He and Jokic have excellent chemistry. Will Barton is a explosive scorer and good shooter although he’s less featured as a starter than he used to be as a 6th man. Paul Millsap has started to show some signs of his age but he’s still a great do-it-all forward and is very important to the team as one of the few guys who is a high level defender.
Monte Morris and Malik Beasley are really good shooters off the bench, Mason Plumlee is a good offensive center.
This team is good, deep, and malleable. Jokic is a rock-solid base, Murray can wipe out opponents on any given night, their bench can kill people, they can also hunker down and drag out teams. This group is untested in the playoffs, so I wont jump too fast, but they seem very much like the real deal.
Matchups to watch:
Pistons vs. Energy: Last game of the road trip, played a pair of really tough teams close but lost, the elevation of Denver is always tough. Wouldn’t be shocking for the Pistons to get blown out of the water right away here.
Drummond vs. Jokic: Drummond killed Jokic last time out, but Jokic is good enough that I wouldn’t count on that again. They are basically exact opposites of each other, Jokic is bigger but is slow, can’t jump over a phone book, and a wee bit chubby. Andre is strong, fast and hyper athletic. Fun matchup.
Blake vs. Not being terrible on defense: It’s been a thing all season but it’s reached some new heights recently. I understand that stars not giving full effort on defense is how the NBA works, and when you play a grueling offensive style like Blake you have to take at least some plays off, but he has to be better than he’s been.
Pistons vs. Stabilizing: The Pistons are still in a good spot, but a win here before a potentially huge game against the Magic coming up, would put them in a much more rock-solid place.
So in conclusion…
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
Andre is owning Jokic again.
Blake is too big for anyone on the Nuggets.
The Pistons come out fighting and determined to leave a tough road-trip 2-2.
Run for the hills if:
The Pistons look gassed.
Jokic remember the butt-kicking and has something to proove.
Murray starts nailing tough threes.