April 15, 2014

For each loud win the Detroit Pistons have logged in the last week, they have followed with a whimper and a loss.

There are no more statement victories available in the final two games of their road trip, but the Pistons can start answering coach Stan Van Gundy's calls for consistency when they meet the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night.

Van Gundy called out his team's effort following Thursday's 115-99 loss at New Orleans, one day after opening a four-game trip with a 123-114 win over Houston. The up-and-down results were similar to Detroit's previous two home games when they beat Golden State 113-95 last weekend before Monday's 111-101 loss to Chicago.

''We look like a team that is firmly committed to being mediocre,'' said Van Gundy, whose club closes its trip Monday against Utah.

The Pistons (23-20) have lost four of six and are 6-8 since winning five of six in mid December, keeping them ahead of only Milwaukee in a stacked Central Division.

Van Gundy had harsh words following the loss to the Pelicans, calling a first half in which Detroit surrendered 72 points "deplorable." It was one of five first halves in the NBA this season with that many points by a team not named the Warriors, and it tied for the most allowed by the Pistons in any half ever.

''In the first half we played nine guys. I thought one guy put out a good effort defensively," Van Gundy said. "Aron Baynes tried hard and I thought the other eight guys virtually put nothing into it on anything.''

New Orleans committed just 10 turnovers and shot 53.5 percent, the third-highest against the Pistons this season. The Pelicans' 65.9 percent showing in the first half equaled three other teams for the fourth-highest in an opening half this season.

Andre Drummond finished with 19 points and 22 rebounds for his seventh straight double-double, but New Orleans still owned the paint with a 60-48 scoring advantage.

Opponents have scored at least 111 points in each of Detroit's last three games, the first time the Pistons have allowed that to happen since December 2014. The Bulls, Rockets and Pelicans combined to shoot 50.2 percent and make 26 of 57 3-pointers.

Denver (16-27) is one of 11 teams in the league averaging fewer than 100 points at 99.4, but the Nuggets have passed the century mark in each of their last three games.

That stretch includes a season-high in Sunday's 129-126 win over Indiana to open a season-high eight-game homestand at 3-1, but a pair of tight losses followed - Tuesday's 110-104 defeat to Oklahoma City and Thursday's 102-101 loss to Memphis.

Denver trailed the Grizzlies by seven midway through the fourth quarter but rallied to take a 98-97 lead with less than a minute left. The Nuggets suffered their eighth consecutive single-digit loss, though, after Emmanuel Mudiay's buzzer-beating 3-pointer was all they scored in the final 41 seconds.

"It gets so old when you hear, `Hey, great game, great comeback,'" coach Mike Malone said. "We're paid to win games."

Denver has won of late in this series, at least. Detroit dominated with a 22-4 record from the end of the 1995-96 season to the beginning of 2009-10, but the Nuggets have won eight of the last 10 meetings, including all six in Denver.

The Nuggets have played the last three games without point guard Jameer Nelson (sprained right wrist), and it is unclear if he will be available Saturday.

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