Pistons vs. Nuggets preview: Brutal West Coast trip continues as Detroit faces a Jokic-less Nuggets

Detroit Bad Boys

After dropping a pair of winnable games against the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings, the depleted Detroit Pistons face a Denver Nuggets team who will be without two of its three best players.

Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray will both be out for tonight’s clash due to COVID health and safety protocols. This will be the third straight game in which the home side has been without their dual MVP Jokic.

However, things just got tougher for Detroit, whom are entering game four of an exhausting six-game road trip, with Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press reporting that Saddiq Bey had flown back to Detroit for additional treatment on his ankle. In turn ruling Bey out for the remainder of the Pistons’ West Coast spell.

Even without Jokic and Murray, the injury-ravaged Pistons will need a near perfect performance to knock off Nuggets tonight.

Game Vitals

When: 9 p.m. ET
Where: Ball Arena, Denver, Colorado
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit
Odds: Pistons +7

Detroit Pistons v Sacramento Kings

Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images


3 Things to watch for:

1. Killian Hayes the starter

Amidst a mostly depressing stretch, Killian Hayes uptick in play has been one of the few bright spots. With the absence of Cunningham, Hayes has grasped the opportunity to start and produced a slew of solid performances.

In 5 games as the starting point guard, Hayes has averaged; 10.6 points, 3 rebounds and 5 assists, while shooting an impressive 50% from beyond the arc (3.6 attempts).

Since his 16-point display vs. the Celtics on Nov. 9, Hayes appears to have flipped a switch mentally. He’s hoisted 8 or more shot attempts in 6 of his past 7 games, something he only achieved once in the 11 games prior.

If Cunningham is ruled out for an extended period of time, the remainder of this season is the perfect chance for Hayes to show he’s a rotation level guard in the NBA.

New York Knicks v Denver Nuggets

Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

2. Bruce Brown’s development

This might sting for some Piston fans, but Bruce Brown’s development since been selected in the second round of the 2018 Draft has been quite remarkable.

Originally touted as a playmaking guard with no jumper, Brown has moulded himself into the ideal connective role piece for any contending team. After a successful stint with the Brooklyn Nets, where he carved out the niche role of a 6-foot-4 roll-man, Brown signed a two-year, $13 million deal with the Nuggets this past offseason,

In 16 games so far, Brown has rewarded the Nuggets front office, posting career highs in points (10.8) and assists (4.5). His improved jump-shot has resulted in Brown converting 38.5% of a career-high 3.3 three-point attempts.

The improvement to his perimeter stroke has flipped Brown’s role from a screen-setting, basket-cutting, off-ball menace with the Nets to a player capable of handling the rock and keeping opponents honest from the corners with the Nuggets.

In many ways, Brown has reverted back to the player he was coming out of college, except he’s now got a jumper to complete the package.

Toronto Raptors v Detroit Pistons

Photo by Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images

3. Bagley vs. Duren minutes

The more the season progresses, the more likely it feels Jalen Duren will be Detroit’s starting center.

While Marvin Bagley has struggled to acclimate himself back into the line-up, Jalen Duren continues to flex his value with each passing game. With Isaiah Stewart still out, Duren’s rebounding and interior presence has been crucial for this team to hang on the defensive end. And it appears Dwane Casey is well aware of the 19-year-old’s importance.

Though Bagley assumed the starting role following Stewart’s injury, Casey has elected to utilise Duren more often in each of the ensuing three games. With Bagley’s minutes progressively lessening, logging; 23, 23 and 21 minutes across his past three games.

In the same span, Duren is playing 25 mins and averaging 10.7 points and 8.3 rebounds.

Time to start to the young fella?

Projected Lineups

Detroit Pistons (3-15)

Killian Hayes, Jaden Ivey, Bojan Bogdanovic, Isaiah Livers, Marvin Bagley III

Denver Nuggets (10-6)

Bruce Brown, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Michael Porter Jr., Jeff Green, DeAndre Jordan

Question of the Day

How long until Jalen Duren starts?

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