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"We just kind of gave in": Undermanned Nuggets lose their edge in Detroit

Harrison Wind Avatar
February 5, 2019

Six nuggets for the six offensive rebounds Andre Drummond collected in the Nuggets’ 129-103 loss to the Pistons.

1. The Nuggets got outplayed by the Pistons in every facet of Monday’s loss. Detroit outrebounded Denver 52-32. The Pistons made 16 threes to the Nuggets’ nine. Detroit beat Denver to 50-50 balls all night long. Andre Drummond shot 12-14 from the field. It was the first time in a quite a while — maybe since the Nuggets’ 102-93 loss in Phoenix on Jan. 12 — where Denver just didn’t have its typical fight that has been a staple of this team all year long.

“I felt tonight was one of the few games this year where things weren’t going our way and we just kind of gave in,” Michael Malone said after the loss. “That’s probably the most disappointing thing about tonight’s game is we had a few guys just kind of give in to it and not continue to fight.”

These types of nights have been few and far between for Denver this season. The Nuggets played a poor first half in Memphis last week but fought back from a 25-point second-half deficit to win. In Minnesota on the second night of a back-to-back on Saturday, Denver started out sluggish but again rallied for a victory which sent Malone and his staff to the All-Star game. In Detroit, the Nuggets didn’t play with that same edge.

A difficult end to Denver’s road trip, which takes the Nuggets through Brooklyn and Philadelphia later this week, won’t be easy.

2. Players admit it. So do Nuggets coaches. When Denver’s shots aren’t falling, its defense suffers. The Nuggets shot under 50 percent from the field and only hit nine of their 28 three-point attempts.

The Nuggets’ poor offensive execution bled over to the other end of the floor.

On the season, Denver has given up the most corner threes in the league by a large margin. Prior to tonight’s game, the Nuggets had allowed 482 corner threes this season, which opponents had hit at a 38 percent clip. Memphis is second in the league in corner threes allowed at 426 this year.

Denver managed to limit Detroit from the corners, but the Pistons still hurt the Nuggets from elsewhere around the arc. Stanley Johnson, who entered Monday’s game shooting only 26 percent from three-point range, drilled four of his five three-point attempts. Reggie Bullock shot three of seven from three-point range. Reggie Jackson shot 2-5 from distance. Luke Kennard added a pair of triples. Langston Galloway, a 33 percent three-point shooter on the year, hit a trio of shots from beyond the arc. The Pistons converted on 16 of their 27 triples as a team.

Detroit sunk six threes in the first quarter. Five of those triples were fairly wide open and uncontested.

3. Injuries are nothing new for the Nuggets this year. Denver, of course, hasn’t had its opening night starting lineup on the floor together since its second regular season game, and it seemed like the Nuggets’ present injuries finally caught up to them. Denver was missing its starting backcourt of Jamal Murray and Gary Harris for a third-straight game. The Nuggets were also without Paul Millsap, who was a game-day scratch due to right ankle soreness.

Denver felt those absences in the second quarter when Michael Malone went to a bench lineup featuring Trey Lyles, Juancho Hernangomez, Torrey Craig, Monte Morris and seldom-used reserve forward Tyler Lydon. That lineup was outscored by 10 points in just three minutes of action.

The Pistons outscored the Nuggets 34-19 in the period.

4.  Morris did all he could to help extend Denver’s six-game winning streak. Playing in front of friends and family in Detroit, Morris, who was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and grew up in neighboring Flint, finished with 18 points on 8-13 shooting.

The loss dampened the mood of Morris’ homecoming, but Denver’s backup point guard still found a way to make an impact during his short stop in town. On Sunday, Morris, along with teammates Mason Plumlee and Will Barton, hosted a meet and greet and gave out free water at the Villa/DTLR store inside on Flint’s Genesee Valley Center. Morris was also joined by Malone and team staffers at the signing.

5. The 23-year-old is more than willing to give back to his hometown of Flint, a city that has produced NBAers like Kyle Kuzma and Miles Bridges. He plays for Flint, and his family and friends are proud of the person and player he’s become since departing Michigan for Iowa State, where Morris played his college ball, before eventually finding an NBA home in Denver.


“Monte is a person that brings us hope. He brings hope to the city of Flint. I said that back when he was in High School,” Morris’ high school basketball coach Mike Williams told Nuggets sideline reporter Katy Winge during an in-game interview. “He represents hope and hope is something that helps you wake up the next day and gives you a reason to live and a reason to work hard and a reason to thrive.”

“We do two things in Flint. We make cars and basketball players.”

Morris drained two of his five three-point attempts against the Pistons. He’s now shooting 44 percent from distance this year. He should be the leading candidate to replace Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball in next week’s Rising Stars Challenge.

6. There was a bit of a silver lining to come out of Monday’s loss: Lyles could be finding his rhythm on the offensive end of the floor. He finished with a team-high 20 points off Denver’s bench on 8-13 shooting 48 hours after tallying 19 points in the Nuggets’ win over the Timberwolves.

Denver will need Lyles, who’s only shooting 26 percent from three this year, to produce down the stretch especially with Millsap banged up. The Nuggets could also use quality minutes from backup small forward Juancho Hernangomez, who’s still trying to rediscover his early-season form.


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