Denver Nuggets vs. Detroit Pistons Pick & Prediction JANUARY 7th 2024

The Detroit Pistons have three NBA titles and five trips to the finals, but this version of the franchise is far from those glory days.

Detroit is closer to the nine-win 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers than the 2003-04 Pistons, the last championship for the franchise. Detroit has been through an unprecedented rough stretch, with one win in its last 32 games, and things won’t get easier when it faces an agitated Nuggets team in Denver on Sunday night.

The Pistons set the dubious NBA record of losing 28 straight in one season before beating Toronto on Dec. 30. They have lost their last three, including a close one at Golden State on Friday night.

“Nobody is happy with this,” general manager Troy Weaver told ESPN. “It’s been a tough road for the players, coaches, the organization, for our fans. Nobody wanted to be here, but we’re here and we are going to continue to fight our way through it.”

Detroit has the first pick from the 2021 draft in Cade Cunningham, and he has played well after missing most of last season with a leg injury that required surgery. He leads the team with 23.4 points and 7.4 assists per game.

But the Pistons lack shooting around him — they are 28th in 3-point percentage — and a lot of their losses have been close.

Only two of the last eight defeats have been by double digits. Two losses have come in overtime.

With the playoffs out of reach, Weaver already is focusing on turning things around.

“The pieces (of the entire roster) fitting together — that’s still to be determined,” Weaver said.

While Detroit focuses on the future, Denver is in the middle of its championship window. The Nuggets have one of the best starting rosters in the NBA and Nikola Jokic, who is considered by many to be the best player in the league.

He showed it Thursday night with a heave from nearly halfcourt to beat Golden State, but then Denver fumbled away an 18-point lead to a young, short-handed Orlando squad on Friday and lost 122-120.

One of the issues cropping up is bad third quarters. The Nuggets have given up 85 points in their last two third quarters and it cost them against the Magic, who scored 41.

“We’ve had third quarters that we had 16 stops in a row, so some nights are going to be different from some nights,” Jokic said. “(Friday) and (Thursday) was bad; we’ve had good third quarters, too.”

Denver has been guilty of coasting at times, too, and Friday was an example. Orlando was down five key players and trailed 78-60 in the third quarter but beat the reigning champs. The Nuggets were a little fatigued, having tipped off less than 21 hours after playing in Golden State, but they had enough energy to build a big lead.

They also committed 23 fouls that led to 34 foul shots for the Magic.

“I think we just lost our intensity and I think we just eased up off the gas,” forward Peyton Watson said after the loss to Orlando. “We can’t take teams like that lightly.”

–Field Level Media

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