Denver Nuggets 134, Detroit Pistons 119: Three takeaways

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

The Nuggets kept the good times rolling as they notched their sixth win in a row, easing past the Pistons in a 134-119 rout at Ball Arena.

Denver welcomed back former players Mason Plumlee and Jerami Grant and quickly went to work against the Pistons, owners of the worst record in the Eastern Conference (15-35). The Nuggets ended the first quarter on a 7-0 run that continued to the second quarter. The team would take a 20-point advantage into the break and wouldn’t look back. All of this was done without the services of Jamal Murray, who was ruled out with a sore right knee before tip-off.

Nikola Jokić was almost unguardable Tuesday night, putting another near triple-double with 27 points, 11 dimes, and eight rebounds on a sizzling 81.3 percent shooting. Grant paced Detroit with 29 points, five rebounds, and four assists.

“We got the win. Our offense played at a high level; our defense was poor. So, how was the approach? It was alright. It can be better," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. "We're going to have to defend a hell of a lot better tomorrow night [against San Antonio]. We gave up 119 points on 54 percent from the field and 15 made threes. The good things were that we outrebounded them by 15 and we had 36 assists. So offensively, great night. Defensively, we just traded baskets all night long." 

The Nuggets are currently on their longest win streak of the 2020-21 season, having picked up their sixth consecutive victory Tuesday night. They will be looking to extend the run when they face the San Antonio Spurs in the first of a home and home back-to-back. That game will tip-off Wednesday (7 p.m. MT, ALTITUDE).

Here are the takeaways:

Unbelievable offense

Detroit came into the contest with the 14th-ranked defense in the NBA but had absolutely no answers for a Nuggets’ offense that was clicking on all cylinders.

Denver owned the paint, outscoring the visitors by a sizable 60-28 margin through the opening three quarters. Even more impressively, the team continued its upward trend in fast break points. The Nuggets dropped 24 points on the fast break, more than doubling its season average of 11.9 points per game in that category. It a nod once again to how the addition of Aaron Gordon has made Denver a quicker-paced team.

Overall, Michael Malone’s team shot an incredible 59.6 percent from the field and hit over 45.2 percent from downtown. It’s a credit to the team’s ball movement, as it had 36 assists to 10 turnovers.

"I think everybody stepped up a little," Jokić  said. "We were just playing really good basketball. I scored a couple points, so we have a lot of weapons." 

Owning the glass

Another big reason why the Nuggets were able to seemingly get what they wanted on offense was down to the battle of the boards. The home team outmuscled Detroit on the glass, powering past its opponent with a 44-30 margin. Those efforts, especially on the offensive boards where the team grabbed 13, gave Denver 13 more field goal attempts than Detroit.

Jokić led the way with eight boards while Porter Jr. added seven. The Nuggets had seven players with three or more rebounds on the night, highlighting the collective approach by the group.

Joker and MPJ dominate

Murray was sidelined, but the Nuggets didn’t miss a step thanks to another set of strong performances from MVP candidate Jokić and Porter Jr.

Jokić missed only three shots en route to his final tally while Porter Jr. hit three shots from downtown en route to a 25-point outing on 11 of 16 shooting. This continues a searing run for the second-year forward, who is averaging 20.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, and shooting 53.8 percent from downtown in his last 10 games before Tuesday's outing. 

"Right now, his percentages in the last 20 games, roughly, have been off the charts," Malone said. "Hopefully, that continues.” 

Porter Jr. acknowledged taking steps forward on offense. 

 “I definitely think I’ve improved, offensively. That’s the goal, to improve every day. I definitely think I’ve done that," Porter Jr. said. 

Will Barton III also deserves a shout as the veteran guard finished the night with 24 points, six rebounds, and four assists on 10 of 16 shooting.

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