Preview: Denver Nuggets wrap up road trip with first matchup against Pistons

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyrosNBA

The Denver Nuggets are flying high following an impressive sweep of a back-to-back set against the Utah Jazz and Milwaukee Bucks. Despite the difficulty in opponents and the tough travel conditions (Denver didn’t arrive in Milwaukee until 4 a.m. CT on Friday), the Nuggets didn’t back down and established themselves as contenders to be reckoned with in the Western Conference.

Denver (34-15) must now avoid the potential pitfalls of a trap game against the Detroit Pistons on Sunday in a game that will tip off at 10:30 a.m. MT. As a result of Super Bowl LIV, the NBA has scheduled all four games on Sunday to tip at or before 1 p.m. MT.

For the third-consecutive game, the Nuggets will be facing a team for the first time this season, thus presenting more challenges for Denver to adjust to. At 15-9, the Nuggets own the fifth-best road record in the entire league, which has been boosted by hot 3-point shooting (37.8 percent from beyond the arc away from Denver).

Detroit (17-33) has struggled through a season full of injuries to key players, most notably Reggie Jackson and Blake Griffin. With Griffin expected to miss the remainder of the season, talks have swirled around potential trades involving longtime franchise centerpiece Andre Drummond. With the 19th ranked offense and 22nd defense, the Pistons struggle to standout on either end of the floor and have lost five-straight games.

The two teams split the season series last year while the Nuggets are 5-3 against Detroit since Michael Malone took over as head coach.

Here are three keys to Sunday’s game:

Take care of business

Although the timing of Sunday’s game combined with the shorthanded nature of Denver’s rotation makes this game against Detroit no simple task, the Nuggets have to take care of business whenever possible, especially on the road. Denver has lost eight games to teams with records below .500, which is the most among the top four teams in each conference.

Detroit is headed towards a rebuild and is 5-14 against teams with record above .500, highlighting their struggles against quality teams this season. The Nuggets have to come out aggressive and put their stamp on the game early in order to sweep their brief road trip and continue their momentum built during the back-to-back set.

Attack the offensive glass

Although the Pistons are an above-average (12th) team on the offensive glass, they struggle to finish defensive possessions with a rebound. Detroit is 24th in the league in defensive rebound percentage, as opponents have grabbed 26.1 percent of available offensive rebounds against the Pistons this season, which should be music to Denver’s ears.

The Nuggets are second in the league in offensive rebound percentage at 27.8 percent, which has been a driving force for their 14th-ranked offense. If Denver can control the offensive glass and create plenty of second-chance points, the offense will benefit tremendously and should find enough success to pull out a victory.

Defending the 3-point line

Although the Pistons are just about average in their frequency of shots coming from deep, they have shot extremely well from beyond the arc this season at 37.5 percent, good for fifth in the league. Detroit also ranks first in corner 3-point percentage at a blistering 43.8 percent, which could spell trouble for Denver’s defense.

Not only does Detroit rank second in the league in frequency of shots coming from the corners, the Nuggets’ defense ranks 25th in the league in allowing corner 3-pointers. The corner 3-pointer has been an Achilles heel for Denver’s defense, as the aggressive pick-and-roll coverage scheme often opens up shooters in the corners. If the Nuggets can limit Detroit’s damage from beyond the arc, it will go a long way in securing another road victory.

Sunday’s game will tip-off at 10:30 a.m. MT and will air on Altitude (Radio: 92.5FM).

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