The Denver Nuggets came in with the best home record against a Pistons team that had yet to win on the road. After a seesaw affair, Detroit squeaked out a 110-108 win.

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After one of the more improbable wins in recent memory in Dallas on Sunday night. The Denver Nuggets followed that up with a dud at home against the 3-win Detroit Pistons. It seemed like an endless uphill battle all night, every time the Nuggets pulled it close with an impressive run, Detroit always had an answer. All this after the three starters missing in Dallas (Jokic/Murray/Gordon) all returned to the lineup for the Association’s fewest 6th home game of the 2022 season.

This tweet by James L. Edwards III of The Athletic sums up just how unlikely this Denver Nuggets loss was:

We have talked a lot about the Nuggets rebounding woes, Nuggets are still undefeated when they out-rebound the other team. They are under .500 when they don’t. Even Coach Michael Malone said it after the game in his presser “They out-worked us on the glass, to me that’s the story of the game”. Rebounding has zero to do with talent, it’s 100% about hustle. To punch his point home Coach Malone advised that Detroit had 12 offensive rebounds for 17 pts. The sloppiness on the offensive end wasn’t helpful as the Nuggets committed 18 turnovers for 26 Piston points.

The Nuggets did get some offensive production as six players left Ball Arena in double digits. Led by reigning MVP Nikola Jokic who fell one rebound short of a triple-double with a 31 pt/10 asts/9 reb slash. But the defense that held Luka Doncic and Co. to just 97 in Dallas, was non-existent for too many stretches Tuesday evening. The Pistons were even missing their most dangerous scorer in Cade Cunningham yet still managed to shoot over 50% from the field for only the second time all season.

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There were nine lead changes in this game, while lead changes are not abnormal in basketball, this is a lot in a game where the trailing team was 12-point home favorites against a team winless on the road. This is made possible when your depth disappoints. Many will point to Bones Hyland not playing in the second half (non-Covid illness) as why Detroit’s bench outscored the Denver Nuggets bench 53-22. In comparison to the Nuggets’ six players in double digits, Detroit only had 4. Where it gets to Detroit getting so much from the bench as opposed to the Nuggets. Detroit had 10 players make at least two buckets, the Nuggets only had seven. The depth that impressed in Dallas dried up in Denver.

This is not a five-alarm fire, it’s not even a candle glow. This is the first half of a back-to-back that has Denver flying from DIA to Oklahoma City after the game for a 6:00 pm tip-off. You hate to call this a trap game as you assume all three starters that returned gave it their all and the focus was there to almost erase a 15-point deficit with less than six minutes remaining to almost force OT on a last-second desperation shot that came up just short by Aaron Gordon off an intentional free-throw miss by Jamal Murray with 3.4 seconds left.

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Speaking of missed free throws, missing nine continues a troubling trend for the Nuggets. The Denver Nuggets are 24th in the NBA in free-throw percentage at a paltry 75.5%. Here’s a quick reminder they only lost by two points. Free throws are named thus for a very obvious reason. How a team can shoot 40.9% (1st) from three and 49.2% (2nd) from the field and be so bad from the charity stripe is staggeringly mind-bending. I have a feeling Coach Malone is going to emphasize both free-throw shooting and hustle on the boards over the next several practices. This is a team full of vets that haven’t let a bad outing snowball into bad outings. Just look at the responses from losses to the Utah Jazz and L.A. Lakers as examples of how this team tends to bounce back. Here’s to believing that trend is the one that continues against the Thunder.

What’s Next:

@Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday, Nov. 23 at 6:00 PM MST/8:00 PM EST

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