Nuggets-Pistons Preview

Last season’s acquisition of Chauncey Billups helped the Denver

Nuggets become one of the top teams in the Western Conference.

Billups, however, has not yet been able to help the Nuggets snap

their road losing streak against his former club.

The Nuggets look to rebound from a surprising defeat and win at

The Palace of Auburn Hills for the first time in nearly 15 years

Thursday night when they take on the Detroit Pistons.

Denver got Billups from Detroit in the opening week of last

season in exchange for Allen Iverson, and the addition helped the

Nuggets snap a streak of five consecutive first-round playoff

exits. Billups teamed with Carmelo Anthony to lead the team to the

West finals, where they were eliminated by the eventual NBA

champion Los Angeles Lakers.

Though Billups has helped take Denver to the next level, the

Nuggets still haven’t won at The Palace of Auburn Hills since March

10, 1995. They’ve dropped 13 straight road games against the

Pistons, including a 100-95 defeat in Billups’ return March 3.

Billups, the NBA finals MVP during the Pistons’ championship run

in 2004, scored 34 points after getting a warm welcome from fans in

suburban Detroit, but it wasn’t enough. Each Pistons starter scored

at least 16 points to help Detroit beat Denver for the 21st time in

25 meetings.

To turn things around, the Nuggets (16-6) will likely need a

better performance than they delivered in their last game. After

winning eight of its previous nine, Denver committed 18 turnovers

and matched its second-lowest assist total of the season with 11 in

a 107-95 loss at Charlotte on Tuesday night.

“We turned the ball over too much, mainly myself,” said

Billups, who had 14 points, one assist and five turnovers. “Anytime

we have more turnovers than assists, chances are we’re not going to

look too good.”

The absence of starting forward Kenyon Martin didn’t help.

Martin is day-to-day with a dislocated left pinkie.

The Pistons (9-12) know all about playing short-handed, having

been without Richard Hamilton (ankle) and Tayshaun Prince (back)

for most of the season. They’ve also had Ben Gordon in and out of

the lineup because of ankle problems.

Gordon didn’t play Wednesday night, but Rodney Stuckey scored 27

points and made the go-ahead basket with 8.7 seconds remaining to

lift Detroit to a 90-86 win at Philadelphia.

“Without three of our best players to get a win on the road like

this is always a good thing,” Pistons center Kwame Brown said. “It

will help build confidence.”

It was the third straight victory for the Pistons, who haven’t

won four in a row since Feb. 27-March 6. Stuckey is averaging 23.7

points, 5.0 rebounds and 6.3 assists during the current streak

while shooting 54.2 percent from the field.

“No question I want the ball in his hands,” Pistons coach John

Kuester said after Stuckey’s big play late in Wednesday’s game.

“You saw a lot of growth in a young man. I’ve been telling people

about how good he can be. He can be one of the best guards in the

league and he showed it tonight.”

Detroit won both meetings with Denver last season, perhaps in

part because Anthony didn’t play in either. Anthony, leading the

league with 29.8 points per game this season, has been held to an

average of 15.4 points and 35.4 percent shooting in five career

games at The Palace.