The Detroit Pistons losing streak reached 11 games, falling to the Denver Nuggets 107-103 on a night when Nuggets star Nikola Jokic and head coach Michael Malone were ejected before halftime.
Who needs the league’s best player when you have the heroics of Reggie Jackson? The former Pistons point guard exacted a bit of revenge against his former organization, leading the Nuggets with 21 points and adding six assists.
It truly looked like this was the game the Pistons were finally going to put it all together. Cade Cunningham had his best game of the season. he scored 27 points and went to the line 11 times, making every one of them.
He also had some easy chemistry with starting guard Jaden Ivey, whose athleticism forced the defense to rotate and react, opening up easy driving lanes and shots for himself and his teammates. Ivey scored 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting in 30 minutes of action.
The Pistons were gifted an opportunity to steal one from the champion Nuggets when a furious Malone quickly and purposefully earned two technicals after a no-call late in the first quarter. Jokic wasn’t far behind. First, he was upset at no whistle for a lane violation, and that earned him tech one. A few additional no calls and he was out with 1:22 left in the half. He finished with nine points, five rebounds and five assists in just 15 minutes of action.
But there was some familiar reasons the Pistons dropped their league-leading 12th consecutive game. After a clean first half, Detroit again couldn’t take care of the ball. They ended with 18 turnovers on the night and five came from Cunningham, clearly the biggest blemish on his encouraging night.
The Pistons also failed to execute late, and that was on head coach Monty Williams more than anything. Detroit went small to close, which makes intuitive sense. But I’m not sure they picked the best closing lineup. Isaiah Stewart couldn’t secure critical rebounds late, and the offense stagnated as it turned into Cade iso ball late, with little ball or people movement.
Isaiah Livers, playing his first game of the season after missing time to injury was in that closing lineup. There were times he was a godsend with his ability to rotate the ball and communicate to his teammates. But there was also times on the floor where it was clear this group hadn’t spent a lot of time together and didn’t know what to do or where to be offensively.
And as much as I want Ausar Thompson on the floor at all times, it probably needed to be a shooter on the floor as the Pistons were down a possession and trying to generate some offense.
In the end, though, it goes down as yet another loss. An encouraging loss, but a loss just the same.
Fellow former Piston Kentavious Caldwell-Pope finished with 20 points while Michael Porter added 14 and 11 rebounds.
Marvin Bagely had a quality game, clearly relishing the chance to go against Jokic early and staying engaged even after the former MVP was tossed. Bagley finished with 18 points and eight rebounds.