Nikola Jokic has been playing at a different level than everyone else. The reigning MVP leads the NBA in triple-doubles this season with 11 and got his fourth straight Friday night against the Memphis Grizzlies.
The problem is Jokic’s team isn’t playing as well as he has been. The Denver Nuggets have lost two of their last three games and have struggled when Jokic comes out of the game.
That may change, however. Denver traded for sharpshooter Bryn Forbes earlier this week and signed DeMarcus Cousins to a 10-day contract on Friday. Forbes made his Nuggets debut in Friday’s loss to Memphis and Cousins may play his first game for them Sunday night when the Detroit Pistons are in town.
Jokic is following up his MVP season with an even better one statistically, but it hasn’t translated to wins for the Nuggets. They are missing two of their top players in Jamal Murray (ACL) and Michael Porter Jr. (back surgery) and could get both of them back by the end of the season, so in the meantime they’re plugging holes.
Cousins was signed to do just that.
“I think DeMarcus makes it hard for other teams to say, ‘We’re going to switch from 1 to 5,'” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “DeMarcus is a very effective low post player, and I hope you realize he’s a hell of a playmaker.”
Forbes was just 4-for-13 shooting in his first game since coming over from San Antonio.
“It was kind of frustrating for me, just personally,” he said after Friday’s loss. “I think I’ve got a lot more in me than that.”
The Pistons come to town after falling at Utah on Friday night. Detroit is 6-6 in January after a tough start to the season when the top pick in the 2021 draft, Cade Cunningham, was out with an ankle injury. Cunningham had a team-high 25 points in the loss to the Jazz.
He is averaging 15.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists in 36 games.
“I’m growing into the system that we have. The chemistry is getting better with me and my teammates, and my coaches trust me more and more,” Cunningham told ESPN. “I’m just feeling more comfortable seeing more defenses each and every night.”
Sunday is the first of back-to-back games between the teams. They will play in Detroit on Tuesday night when the Nuggets begin a six-game road trip.
Sunday will also be the first time Pistons guard Rodney McGruder plays against the team he nearly joined a couple of weeks ago. Detroit and Denver agreed to a deal to send McGruder to the Pistons in exchange for Bol Bol, but the deal was nixed when Bol failed a physical.
Bol had surgery on his foot and was then included in the three-team trade that brought Forbes to the Nuggets.
Detroit forward Jerami Grant will not play against his former team. Grant spurned the Nuggets’ free-agent contract offer in 2020 to ink the same offer with the Pistons. Grant averaged 12.0 points in one season with Denver and contributed 20.1 points this season before suffering a thumb injury.
He has not played since Dec. 12.
–Field Level Media