Jan 23, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Austin Rivers (25) controls the ball under pressure from Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (2) and center Isaiah Stewart (28) in the first quarter at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Pistons closed their road trip on a competitive note in Denver last night. Despite being outsized and lacking depth in the paint, the Pistons played a close game against the Nuggets. Despite losing to Jokic and crew 117-111, Detroit has a lot to be happy with. The team showed signs of improvement through this road trip. And they came a long way from the group that got blown off the court by the Golden State Warriors. Cade Cunningham continues to shine for the Pistons, finishing with 18 points shooting 7-15 from the field. Isaiah Stewart had his best offensive game to date, scoring 18 points shooting 100 % from the field.

The Pistons could not overcome the play of Nikola Jokic and crew. Without Kelly Olynyk (health and safety protocols), the Pistons continue to look small. And with a team that signed Demarcus Cousins earlier in the week, the Nuggets had a massive advantage. Denver would play lineups with Jokic and Cousins in lineups together, and Detroit struggled to keep up with their size. Detroit saw their third quarter woes continue, this time lead by Killian Hayes and the bench crew. There were more turnovers than previous games, but despite that difficult quarter, the game came down to the final plays.

Killian Hayes comes off the bench, Corey Joseph moved to starting lineup

Pistons coach Dwane Casey made the decision to make a lineup change Sunday night. And with Killian Hayes coming back from another hip injury, Hayes came off the bench. Additionally, this is the first time that Killian has not started this season. And this could be a potential change that can stick for a while. He finished with 8 points shooting 3-5 from the field. He played a fairly efficient game and he played good defense down the stretch. Unfortunately, Hayes did finish with 3 turnovers and could have been more aggressive. Fans on social media were comparing a moment Hayes had close to the rim to the infamous Ben Simmons moment in the playoffs. Images can be found in that link.

Isaiah Stewart has been the story of this road trip for the Detroit Pistons. He shot a perfect 8-8 from the field, including hitting a three from beyond the arc. He has been far more aggressive offensively, and has been working to create his own shots. His threat offensively make the Pistons better offensively, as they have to respect everyone on the court. Corey Joseph has been a stable force for Detroit this year, finishing with 18 points shooting 7-9 from the field. Additionally, having Corey start alongside Cade is clearly a pairing that pays off, but Casey also had lineups with all three guards on the court. It is an intriguing trio that I would love to see them come back to. And all indication is they will.

Saddiq Bey hit some clutch threes in the end of the fourth, and Cade Cunningham had a three that didn’t count as well. It was the Pistons mistakes late, turning the ball over and fouling at the end of the game, that was their undoing. Cade Cunningham continues to shine offensively, creating shots for others and growing his scoring ability. He is continuing to make a case for the rookie of the year award. We are watching Cunningham become that player. And it is something the Pistons should be thrilled with.

Denver Nuggets MVP Jokic is master class of NBA

If there was anything obvious going into Sunday’s game, it was that there’s no stopping Nikola Jokic. The reigning MVP is one of the most dominant players in the history of the game. And it was on full display against the Pistons. Jokic finished with 34 points and 8 assists, snagging 9 boards as well. In addition, the Nuggets had solid contributions from Aaron Gordon and Will Barton. Gordon finished with 13 points and Barton added 14 himself.

The Nuggets are a team that would be contending for a Finals run if not the injuries of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter JR. Despite this being a year where Denver is short handed, Jokic keeps the team 3 games above .500 in a competitive Western Conference. He is the best passing big man in the history of the league, he can score in a multitude of ways, and he is strong in the post. In my personal opinion, Jokic is a top three player in the world. Only Joel Embiid rivals his skill as a big man, and he is living proof that the big man still has life in the NBA.

Pistons conclude strong road trip, rematch with Nuggets at home Tuesday

After a four game road trip out west against playoff caliber teams, the Pistons feel like a different team heading home than the one that left. And with the strong performances of Cade Cunningham and Isaiah Stewart, there’s a lot of work being done Although Detroit won’t feel satisfied heading home 1-3, there are reasons to believe that progress is being made. Additionally, Dwane Casey made changes to the lineup, giving Killian Hayes a reduced role. And whether Dwane sticks with his decision or not, The Pistons are making adjustments.

Nikola Jokic and crew are traveling to Detroit and will rematch with the Pistons on Tuesday Night. Therefore, Detroit has a great opportunity to come home and apply what they learned Sunday Night. These are the losses that the Pistons will live with, as they are playing hard and making good progress. And soon enough, the Pistons will win more games like these.

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