Pistons-Nuggets Preview

The Denver Nuggets were unquestionably built to score plenty of

points when Carmelo Anthony was around, but lately even George Karl

admits he’s not sure where his team’s greatest strength lies.

He’s certainly having fun trying to figure it out.

The surging Nuggets look for a seventh win in nine games since

the Anthony trade when they play their lone home game during a

road-heavy stretch Saturday night against the Detroit Pistons.

Denver (38-27) scored 107.6 points per game and surrendered

105.2 before dealing Anthony and Chauncey Billups, and at that

point most expected Karl’s team to see its offensive production

take a dramatic dip.

Instead, the Nuggets’ offense has stayed fairly constant –

averaging 106.0 points – but they’ve made a dramatic improvement on

the defensive end. Denver has allowed 94.6 points per game since

the All-Star break, the fifth fewest in the league.

The Nuggets were clicking on both ends Thursday even without

Arron Afflalo (hamstring) and Danilo Gallinari (sprained toe). Nene

scored a game-high 22 points, Ty Lawson added 20 points and 11

assists and Denver shot 51.7 percent in a 116-97 win at


“Are we an offensive team or a defensive team?” Karl said. “…

I don’t know. They both were pretty good. I probably think tonight

we were more dominating defensively. I thought our offense was

created by our defensive actions a lot.”

The Nuggets have won four of five without Gallinari, who could

return as early as Tuesday’s opener of a four-game road trip at New

Orleans. Afflalo, meanwhile, will miss at least Saturday’s game and

could be out longer.

Eight Denver players have averaged in double figures since Feb.

28, led by Nene’s 17.4 points per game.

The Brazilian center missed the Nuggets’ visit to Detroit on

Jan. 26 with a strained right calf, but Billups scored 26 in a

109-100 victory – Denver’s second straight in the series after

having lost 16 of 18.

This is the Nuggets’ lone stop at the Pepsi Center in an

eight-game stretch, and they should have a great opportunity to

pick up a sixth consecutive home victory. The Pistons (23-43) have

lost their last five road games, falling to 1-19 against teams .500

or above away from The Palace with Friday’s 104-94 loss at Oklahoma


The Thunder shot 50.0 percent, the 31st time Detroit has allowed

an opponent to make at least half its field-goal attempts. The

Pistons are 8-23 in those games.

“Defense has been lacking all year,” said Rodney Stuckey, who

started 50 games before coach John Kuester decided to have him come

off the bench earlier this week. “We have to get better at it,

especially going to play Denver. They are an up-and-down team, so

we are going to have to stay with them, they are going to be


One positive for Detroit has been the play of Richard Hamilton

since Kuester finally allowed his disgruntled former All-Star back

in the rotation. Hamilton has scored in double figures in all five

games, and he’s put up 20 apiece in his last two – the first time

he’s hit that mark in consecutive games since March 5-7.

Denver has outrebounded its opponents by 8.3 per game since the

All-Star break, bad news for a Pistons team that averages the

fewest boards (38.4) in the NBA.