The defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets will look to snap a four-game road losing streak when they face the foundering Detroit Pistons on Monday night.
“They were just better today,” Nuggets star center Nikola Jokic said. “Offensive glass, paint — they were getting everything they want.”
Jokic was limited to 28 minutes due to foul issues. He finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
The Nuggets also lost their previous game, at New Orleans, 115-110, on Friday night. The Pelicans shot 52.3 percent from the field.
“We are playing a little bit stagnant right now. Just maybe (need) a little bit more movement,” Jokic said. “And defense, of course. Our defense is really bad right now.”
One bright spot in the last two games has been reserve guard Christian Braun. He’s contributed a combined 38 points and 11 rebounds without a turnover in 55 minutes.
“He’s a guy that’s never going to let go of the rope,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “It’s just not in CB’s character. He’s a competitor.”
Denver’s second-leading scorer, Jamal Murray, has missed the last six games with a hamstring injury.
The Nuggets will play the middle contest of a five-game trip. They have won six of their last seven meetings with Detroit.
The Pistons have lost 11 straight. They’ve kept it close in a majority of those games, but that wasn’t the case on Sunday. Toronto blew them out 142-113 as the Raptors racked up a franchise-record 44 assists and made just eight turnovers.
Detroit, which has been ravaged by injuries, had only 10 players available.
“The thing that we have to understand, especially when you’re down as many guys as we are down, you cannot play without a level of competition that allows for you to have a chance,” coach Monty Williams said. “If we compete, we’re in games. If we don’t compete at a high level from all five guys on the floor, it looks like it did tonight.”
The Pistons’ bench outscored the starters 63-50. Lottery pick Ausar Thompson had a rough night, committing five turnovers. Jaden Ivey and Kevin Knox, thrust into starting roles, shot a combined 5-for-21 from the field. Isaiah Stewart, who started at center, grabbed only five rebounds.
“I think a few of our guys are dealing with how hard the league is,” Williams said. “When you’re dealing with it, the one thing you can control is your competition level. I didn’t see that across the board. … We have to do a much better job of handling adversity in games. When adversity hit tonight, we just went down in our spirit. And we can’t afford that.”
Cade Cunningham, who scored 18 points, said the effort was “unacceptable.”
“We’re the youngest team in the league, scrapping and clawing for everything,” he said. “That should be the last thing that needs to be asked of us or talked about — how hard we’re competing. That should be a given.”