DENVER, CO - MARCH 15: Gary Harris #14 of the Denver Nuggets dunks the ball against the Detroit Pistons on March 15, 2018 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.
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Nuggets' Important Win Tempered by Injury to Gary Harris

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider
@chrisadempsey

With the stakes high, and opportunities to gain ground in the Western Conference playoff race all around them, the Nuggets did what they had to do – they took advantage.

“It’s a win,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “It’s definitely a win.”

But their 120-113 win over the Pistons on Tuesday night at the Pepsi Center didn’t come without its fair share of concern. Chief among them: Gary Harris.

The Nuggets starting shooting guard, and leading scorer, took a hard foul late in the fourth quarter after making a dunk. He stayed down for a few minutes, got to his feet, and gingerly walked to the bench. Harris came back out onto the court after the timeout to shoot a free throw, then went straight back to the locker room. He was diagnosed with right knee soreness and did not return.

“All I know is that the x-rays were negative,” Malone said. “Obviously, there will be more testing (on Friday). Our thoughts and prayers are with him. You never want to see any player get hurt, but, you know, Gary is such a big part of our team.”

Harris was in a smiling mood when he met the media, and he didn’t deviate from his normal routine of playing music at his locker as he got dressed. He still walked carefully when he exited the Nuggets locker room.

“It’ll be alright,” Harris said. “I’m about to get it evaluated, so we’ll see. It’s a little sore right now, so we’ll see.”

Teammate Jamal Murray got an up-close view of the play.

“It was a scary fall,” Murray said. “You never want to see that happen. Hopefully, he’ll be back soon. He’s a tough guy.”

When Harris left the game with 6:22 remaining in the fourth, the Nuggets had some maintenance to do on a game that had gotten much closer than it appeared it would. The Nuggets had a 26-point lead and were cruising. But the Pistons kept chipping away at it.

Detroit cut the lead all the way down to five points in the fourth quarter, before the Nuggets regained a foothold in the contest. The Nuggets held on from there to win.

It was an important victory that helped them keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race. The Nuggets (38-31) remain in 10th, just a game behind the Spurs and Jazz, and just two games out of the fifth spot.

“I’m just glad we got the win,” Harris said. “In this race that we’re in, we’ve got to take it one game at a time and we’ve got to win.”

There were good things contained within the victory.

- Offensively, the Nuggets shot 50.6 percent.

- When they did miss a shot, the Nuggets generally collected the miss, ending up with 21 second chance points.

- Nikola Jokić had his eighth triple-double of the season with 23 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. He also had three blocks and three steals.

- The Nuggets bench racked up 46 points, well above their season average of 35.5

“This was a big win for us,” Malone said. “To continue to protect our home court. We knew we’d get a good game from them, obviously. We built a big lead and were able to hold on.”

Christopher Dempsey: christopher.dempsey@altitude.tv and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.