Denver Nuggets 115, Detroit Pistons 98: Three takeaways

by Alex Labidou Staff Writer

The Nuggets ensured they wouldn’t have another surprise setback against the Pistons with a straightforward 115-98 win at Pepsi Center Tuesday. 
Three weeks ago, the Nuggets were stunned by the Pistons in Detroit, suffering a 128-123 overtime loss after leading by as many as 21 points. On Tuesday, Denver was relentless from tip-off and never looked back after taking a double-digit lead into halftime.  

Jerami Grant led the Denver with a career-high 29 points along with five boards, sparking a dominant performance by the home team’s reserve unit. Detroit was paced by Derrick Rose, who had 20 points and five assists. 

"Jerami gets you 29 [points] and five [rebounds]...I just rode him that whole second half," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone. "He was terrific."

The Nuggets asserted themselves early thanks to Jamal Murray. The newly-turned 23-year-old had a sizzling start, hitting his first three buckets and pouring in nine points and three assists in the opening 12 minutes. The Nuggets would take a six-point advantage into the second quarter and would continue building momentum ahead of halftime. 
Denver’s dominance would continue after the break. At the 8:19 mark of the third quarter, Paul Millsap would push the team’s lead to 15, slamming the ball off an assist from Murray. Detroit would cut the deficit to just 10 entering the fourth quarter, but the Nuggets would ice the contest in the final 12 minutes. The Nuggets secured their 40th win of the season, the quickest the team has reached that milestone in the franchise's NBA history. 

"I think sometimes you have to stop along the way and understand where you're are at and what you're accomplishing," Malone said. "[We're] only one of a few teams in the league that have 40 wins right now. So, I'm proud of our guys for getting these two home wins before going to LA [to face the Clippers]." 

Grant would pour in 14 points in the fourth quarter and spark the team’s 10-3 run early in the quarter. The team would pad the lead to 20 and secure their second consecutive win.

Here are the takeaways: 
Bench unit comes alive
It was a banner night for Grant, who took advantage of the Pistons’ poor interior defense to shoot 12 of 16 on the night. Grant’s efforts stood out, but this was a complete showing from the reserves, who outscored the Pistons’ bench 60-38. 

"We have a lot of talent on this team," Grant said. "A lot of players who can put up numbers, 20 points-plus a game. You never know where it's going to come from on any given night." 
Michael Porter Jr. had a resurgent performance, adding another 13 points and eight rebounds on 6 of 8 shooting. This was an important game for the Nuggets rookie, who had scored a combined six points in his previous outings. 
Monte Morris had another efficient outing with eight points, five assists and three steals while Mason Plumlee was effective on the defensive end and finished with eight points, six rebounds, three assists and a block. 

Paint dominance
With the Pistons shipping away Andre Drummond and releasing Markieff Morris, they offered little resistance at the rim and the Nuggets were able to dominate as result. 
Denver had a 60-32 points in the paint advantage and went to the line 22 times on the night. The team would have 15 of their 44 made shots at the rim. Their low post dominance also meant they didn’t have to rely on downtown as much, taking just 19 attempts on the night – 11 off their average of 30.5 a night. 

"I know it's a small sample size, but I believe we lead the NBA in paint-points per game [since the All-Star break]," Malone said. "We had 76 [points in the paint] against Minnesota and we had 60 tonight." 
Pulling the strings
The Nuggets had five players with three assists or more and were led by a top playmaking performance from Jamal Murray. 
Murray would finish the game with eight assists and just one turnover to go along with his 16 points. The guard continues to shine since his return from injury on Feb. 4. Against the Pistons, he showcased he can impact the game in other areas when his shot isn’t falling. 


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