Preview: Denver Nuggets conclude back-to-back vs. Pistons

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyrosNBA

The Denver Nuggets began their final back-to-back of the 2020-21 season with a convincing win over a division rival, securing a near wire-to-wire 114-103 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves Thursday.

Denver was led by Nikola Jokić (31 points and 14 rebounds) but had six players finish in double-figures, including Markus Howard (15 points) and Vlatko Čančar (14 points), who set new career highs in the win.

MORE: Takeaways from win over Timberwolves

The Nuggets (46-24) will have to move on quickly, as a meeting against the Detroit Pistons awaits them Friday.

The youth movement is on for Detroit (20-50), who is 2-8 over the last 10 games as rookies continue to earn more opportunities. The Pistons have received impressive rookie campaigns from Saddiq Bey (12.1 points per game, 38.9 percent 3-point shooting) and Isaiah Stewart (7.9 points and 6.7 rebounds per game).

Following the trade of Derrick Rose and buyout of Blake Griffin, Detroit has embraced a strategy focused on player development.

Denver won the first meeting of the season series 134-119 back on April 6.

Projected starters: Facundo Campazzo, Austin Rivers, Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, Nikola Jokić

TUNE-IN: 6 p.m. MT, Altitude TV and 92.5FM

Key matchup: Michael Porter Jr. vs. Saddiq Bey

As mentioned earlier, Bey has impressed in his rookie season with quality 3-point shooting and capable defense on the wing.

At 38.9 percent shooting on 6.4 3-point attempts per game, Bey has quickly become one of the more dangerous 3-point shooters in the league. With a large role as of late (33.3 minutes per game over the last 10 contests), Bey has responded with quality production, averaging 16 points and 7.4 rebounds per game on 42.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

Denver should be very familiar with the damage that Bey can do, as the rookie dropped 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the field (6-of-12 from downtown) back on April 6 at Ball Arena.

Speaking of dangerous scorers, Porter Jr. also dropped 25 points back on April 6 against Detroit, on 11-of-16 shooting from the field. The 22-year-old is putting the finishing touches on a breakout campaign, averaging 23.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game since the All-Star break.

Attack the offensive glass

To their credit, the Pistons have defended at a league-average level this season, which is no small feat with the number of changes their rotation has seen this season and the reliance on inexperienced players.

Detroit ranks 16th in defensive rating (per Cleaning the Glass), as they have done a solid job in forcing turnovers and avoiding fouls. However, there is one area of weakness for the Pistons on that end of the floor, which makes them vulnerable in a matchup against Denver.

Detroit ranks 25th in opponent offensive rebound percentage, allowing teams to grab an offensive rebound on 26.5 percent of their missed shots. Meanwhile, the Nuggets rank second in offensive rebound percentage at 28.4 percent.

In the first meeting back in April, Denver finished with a 13-7 advantage on the offensive glass, which helped fuel the comfortable victory.

Avoid fouling to fuel Detroit’s offense

On the other end of the floor, the Pistons have struggled mightily, ranking 26th in offensive rating. Detroit ranks 27th in both effective field-goal percentage and turnover percentage, while they are league average in offensive rebound percentage.

However, one area the Pistons have thrived is getting to the charity stripe for easy offense. Detroit owns the sixth-highest free-throw rate (free throws made per 100 shot attempts) in the league.

Denver has been effective in avoiding fouls on defense, ranking 15th in opponent free-throw rate this season. However, the Pistons went 16-of-20 from the charity stripe against Denver back on April 6, which when coupled with hot 3-point shooting (15-of-35), allowed the Pistons to drop 119 points on the Nuggets’ defense.

Statistics as of May 12.

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