Nuggets look to avenge earlier loss against Pistons

A week after getting knocked around at The Palace of Auburn Hills, the Denver Nuggets have a chance to get even with the Detroit Pistons when the teams meet at Pepsi Center on Saturday night.

Detroit manhandled the Nuggets from the start in a 103-86 win Nov. 5, and the loss is fresh on the minds of Denver players and coaches. The Pistons jumped out to a 20-4 lead and never looked back.

It was a scenario that played out for the Nuggets against Golden State on Thursday. Like the game in Michigan, Denver got down early and could never get back into the game.

The Nuggets hope to turn that around against the Pistons, who are coming off a 96-86 loss in San Antonio on Friday night.

The Pistons enter Saturday's game relatively healthy. Point guard Reggie Jackson and forward Reggie Bullock have not played this year but the rest of the team is intact.

That's not the case for Denver. Guard Will Barton remains out with a sprained left ankle and forwards Wilson Chandler (hamstring) and Darrell Arthur (knee) are not expected to play.

But that might not be Denver's biggest concern. The Nuggets have not taken care of the ball this year, which has contributed directly to two losses. They had 16 last week against the Pistons, and it was a problem yet again in the loss to the Warriors.

“We cannot continue to turn the ball over 18, 19 times a game if we want to give ourselves a chance to win,” Denver coach Michael Malone said.

The Nuggets are hoping they will get one of those turnovers back and maybe a chance to turn a loss into a defeat. In Tuesday's loss at Memphis, the officials ruled the Nuggets touched the ball last before it went out of bounds with 0.7 seconds left, a call that was upheld by replay. Denver was leading by one and the Grizzlies won it on Marc Gasol's buzzer-beater.

However, the NBA took another look at the play and ruled the ball should have been given to Denver. The Nuggets have filed an official protest with the league and hope to replay the end of the game the next time they play Memphis.

“Whether they do it or not I have no idea,” Malone said.

That won't be a concern for the Pistons, who will be tired and playing at altitude after a tough game against the Spurs. They'll be looking for their first win in Denver since 2009, which is also the last time they swept the season series from the Nuggets.

Detroit's defense is improved over last season, which has helped bail out a struggling offense.

“What you'd like to be is good at both ends. Getting our defense established is more of the priority,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy told The Detroit News. “We try to work on both ends of the floor and there's been more emphasis on defense.”

Center Andre Drummond, who anchors the back end of the defense, is happy the focus has been on that end of the floor.

“I'd rather we have a successful defensive night than a fantastic offensive night,” Drummond told The Detroit News. “When we have great defensive nights, offensively, it takes care of itself.”