The Pistons and the Nuggets are two franchises who have shared a common kinship over the past few years. Most of Denver's recent success can be attributed to the "Thank you" card they mailed to Joe Dumars in 2003 when his drafting of Darko Milicic allowed the Nuggets to land their franchise gem, Carmelo Anthony.
In 2008, the Pistons shipped their beloved general Chauncey Billups to Denver in return for disgruntled superstar Allen Iverson. Then in 2009 the Pistons presented Denver with the services of Arron Afflalo in return for a box of peanuts and cash considerations. Both Billups and Afflalo have started every game for the Nuggets this season (with the exception of four games during which Billups was sidelined with an injury).
As of late, the fortunes of Detroit and Denver were set to cross again in the recently disintegrated blockbuster trade, also involving the Nets. Ironically, Anthony was the player on the move and continues to be an important entity in both franchises who were affected on that fateful draft day eight years ago.
Now, the two teams face off tonight in their first battle of the season. While one team has experienced enviable success in recent years and the other is currently in re-building mode it may be a surprise to some who is the favorite in tonight's meeting.
Rodney Stuckey was given the reigns to the Piston offense because Dumars believed he was a younger version of Chauncey Billups: He's strong in the post, aggressive to the basket, and had an emerging outside game. Though not a belief echoed by many Detroit fans, Joe's faith has been rewarded in recent weeks.
Stuckey has the quickness associated with his youth to get past Billups and attack the rim. At the other end of the floor he is equally as strong as the ex-Piston and can keep Chauncey from exercising his favorite routine of abusing smaller point guards in the post.
In the two games against Denver last season Stuckey posted a line of 19/7/6 on Feb. 26, and also dropped 25 points with the help of 15 attempts from the free throw line on Dec. 10. Though Billups has been able to score against Stuckey he has managed only 4 assists combined over the course of those two games.
As Tracy McGrady runs the point guard slot for the Pistons Stuckey will still be in charge of guarding Billups, and Billups will most likely continue to matchup with the young Piston on the other end, as well. If Stuckey can continue to keep Billups from being the floor general he is accustomed to being, while attacking the rim and drawing fouls on the offensive end, the Pistons will have a real shot at victory tonight.
Denver is 4-5 in back-to-back games this season. More importantly, they are 1-4 in their last five back-to-backs when the second game occurs on the road. Included in those four losses are slip-ups against Sacramento and Philadelphia, both of whom boast losing records.
Denver's troubles don't only extend to back-to-backs; their road record on the season is a disappointing 6-13. Regardless of Denver's high-powered offense their increase in offensive production isn't helping them when they leave the confines of The Pepsi Center.
The Pistons have won five of their last six at home, and are 7-7 in their last 14 games overall with victories over Orlando, Boston, Dallas, and Phoenix.
Since the demotion of Richard Hamilton the Pistons are 5-3 including that win over Orlando in Florida.
The Pistons are playing their best ball of the season. Head coach John Keuster's recent tweaks involving Tracy McGrady's move to point guard and Rodney Stuckey's move to the off-guard position have proven very influential.
With youngster Austin Daye pouring in 20 points against Orlando on Monday the Pistons are hoping they will soon have another consistent scoring option off their bench. If players can continue this maturation process they will soon be looking at another marquee win.
Carmelo Anthony is one of the league's most productive players who averages a career clip of 25ppg. Luckily for the Pistons, he barely averages 20ppg against their stingy defense; those numbers are his fourth lowest against any team in the league.
Last season, in his most productive game against Detroit, Anthony poured in 40 points, yet it was in a losing effort.
'Melo also shoots an anemic 38 percent against Detroit while grabbing his third lowest rebounding average, as well.
Tayshaun Prince will be putting his re-vamped play on the line both defensively and offensively against the three-time All-Star, and if he can continue to push 'Melo outside of his comfort-zone the Pistons' chances will greatly increase.
The most important fact of all...the Nuggets have not won on the Pistons home court since March of 1995. All the stats in the world can tell one story, but if a team can't win somewhere in fifteen years then it's hard to make that team the favorite.