Nuggets beat Pistons in home opener for first win of season

Iguodala, Lawson lead balanced attack in front of sellout crowd at Pepsi Center
by Aaron Lopez

The Swiss Army Knife known as Andre Iguodala has been a bit rusty while adjusting to his surroundings in Denver.

He is still searching for his shooting touch and his passing remains a work in progress as he tries to learn the tendencies of his new teammates.

Despite the ongoing transition period, Iguodala is still finding a way to make an impact for the Nuggets.

Iguodala scored 17 points to go with 10 rebounds and four assists Tuesday night as Denver ended its three-game losing streak with a 109-97 victory over the Detroit Pistons in front of a towel-waving crowd at Pepsi Center.

“I still have some things to work on,” Iguodala said, “but I felt good tonight. We had really good energy to start the game. The crowd was really in it for us and they stuck with us the whole way.”

Acquired from Philadelphia in a four-team trade on Aug. 10, Iguodala made a good first impression on the sellout crowd. With the Nuggets protecting a seven-point lead with 2:49 left in the fourth quarter, he scored six points in a 67-second span to put the game out of reach.

“Coming to a new team, he’s very respectful of what we have,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “He’s not going to shake the boat or create any (problems). He’s going to figure out how we like to play and figure out what is a good shot and what isn’t a good shot.”

Iguodala had plenty of help as Denver won its fourth straight home opener.

Attacking the basket and creating for others, point guard Ty Lawson finished with 15 points and nine assists, while JaVale McGee had 16 points and three blocked shots in 18 minutes off the bench.

Kenneth Faried added 15 points and eight boards to help the Nuggets avoid their first 0-4 start in 14 years.

“We got the monkey off our back,” Lawson said. “Right now we’re growing together, taking the bruises and the victories together. We’re going to learn throughout the year and mature fast.”

Wearing their new gold alternate jerseys, the Nuggets never trailed after halftime but had to fight off a Detroit team that also lost its first three games of the season.

Greg Monroe scored 19 of his 27 points in the second half to help the Pistons make things interesting down the stretch, but the Nuggets scored 19 points off 15 Detroit turnovers and finished with 11 blocked shots. Denver also finished with a 52-35 rebounding edge.

“We made a lot of defensive plays and made them miss shots,” Karl said. “Our big guys were sensational rebounding the ball.”

One of the most impressive defensive plays came late in the third quarter when veteran point guard Andre Miller stole the ball from Will Bynum to thwart a would-be fast break. Miller quickly found McGee near the basket for an uncontested alley-oop.

McGee also turned two of his three offensive rebounds into easy baskets.

“JaVale McGee (is) 7-foot and he has like a 50-inch vertical,” Pistons big man Andre Drummond said. “If you don’t block him out, he is going to dunk the ball over your head.”

McGee and the Nuggets will have to bring that same energy and effort Wednesday night when they face the Houston Rockets on the road.

Led by NBA scoring leader James Harden (35.3 ppg), the Rockets are off to a 2-1 start and will be seeking their first home victory.

With a reputation as a lockdown perimeter defender, Iguodala will draw the task of slowing down Harden.

“He’ll get better at being the disrupter, the guy who goes after the best player at the end of the game,” Karl said. “He’ll have a great assignment (Wednesday). It’ll be great to see how he covers Harden.”

NOTES: Former Nuggets forward LaPhonso Ellis received a rousing ovation when he presented the game ball at center court. Ellis, who played for Denver from 1992-98, also joined the Altitude broadcast for a long stretch of the second quarter . . . The Nuggets made 10 three-pointers. Since the start of the 2009-10 season, they are 46-7 when making double-digit 3s . . . Denver scored 26 second-chance points against Detroit, boosting their season average to 21.5, compared to 13.4 in 2011-12.