Both teams played well in spurts and equaled each other’s output in the first three quarters. In the first, Denver came out lethargic and only managed to score 20 points as the Pistons put 29 on them in return. George Karl started an unorthodox line-up of Yakhouba Diawara, Linas Kleiza, Marcus Camby, and Stacey Augmon with point guard Chucky Atkins seeing his first preseason action and the Nuggets looked out of sync. On the other hand, the Pistons started their usual five of Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Antonio McDyess, Tayshaun Prince, and Rasheed Wallace and had no trouble getting into a rhythm early. However, Denver did managed to put together a better second quarter, matching the Piston’s 34 points in the period, and in doing so kept things reasonable going into the second half.
In the third, Denver managed to make up the nine points they fell behind by in the first quarter by outscoring the Pistons, 25-16, largely in part to a tremendous turnaround on the defensive end. Marcus Camby’s impact on the boards,(he had ten huge rebounds alone in the quarter), started it all and the rest of the Nuggets really turned the heat up on the Pistons to tie things at 79 going into the final quarter of play.
The final minutes in the fourth were where the game was decided and it was a lack of execution and poor decisions that resulted in the Nuggets taking the L. For instance, with 90 seconds remaining and the Pistons leading, 103-102, J.R. Smith had a lay-up swatted by Jason Maxiel, an offensive foul resulting in a turnover, and a loose ball frustration foul all in the matter of about 30 seconds. Now J.R. isn’t solely to blame for the Nuggets loss, but this terrible stretch was the straw that broke the camel’s back and it allowed the Pistons to take control of the game because it gave them two free-throws, (which they made good on), and put the Nuggets in an immediate foul situation. And credit has to be given to the Pistons for stepping up to the line and knocking down their final four free-throws to ice the game in the final 20 seconds.
Offensive leaders for the Nuggets were Anthony Roberson with 22 points, Bobby Jones with 17 points, and Von Wafer with 16 points, respectively. Both Roberson and Jones also each passed out four assists and Marcus Camby grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds. It should also be noted that J.R. Smith, while finishing with 13 points, missed all four of his three-point attempts and in doing so has missed the last 23 threes he has attempted carrying over to last season’s playoffs.
The DNP list for the Nuggets was long with Carmelo, Kenyon, Eduardo, Nene, and AI all not entering the game. Denver is now 2-1 in preseason play and faces the Bucks in Milwaukee on Tuesday night.