It didn't get better for the Denver Nuggets in Detroit. In fact, it got much, much worse. The Nuggets were blown out 126-109 by the Detroit Pistons and suffered yet another injury to a key player. This time, Ty Lawson was forced to leave the game early and the Nuggets were never able to recover.
They got off to a great start in the first quarter, outscoring the Pistons 14-4 out of the gate. Randy Foye and Wilson Chandler each splashed two three-pointers. J.J. Hickson and Kenneth Faried got into the mix soon after with a series of highlight-reel dunks, including a mega one-handed slam over Andre Drummond by Hickson. The quick pace soon turned against the Nuggets as they began to turn the ball over and give the Pistons easy fast-break points. The Nuggets held a 26-18 lead with 2:36 to go and ended the quarter down 30-29, with six turnovers.
Things went from bad to worse in the second quarter. The defense was horrendous as the Pistons were getting whatever they wanted with little to no resistance from the Nuggets. Disaster struck near the end of the quarter with the Nuggets nursing a two-point lead. Lawson drove into the lane and landed funny after he jumped to pass the ball. He immediately clutched at his lower back on his left side. He suffered a lower back strain and would not return to the game. Brandon Jennings scored the last eight points of the quarter for the Pistons and they led 65-61 at halftime. The stats from the first two quarters were ugly. The Pistons had 22 fast-break points and 40 points in the paint, as well as 18 assists and only four turnovers. The Nuggets managed six fast-break points, 13 assists, and nine turnovers.
With Lawson out, the offense went through Chandler and Foye for the most part in the second half. While those two were game, it was difficult for them to keep the team afloat. The third quarter mirrored the first two, with Denver giving up 30-plus points. Foye's shooting kept the Nuggets in the game in the third and they went into the fourth quarter trailing 97-86.
Give the Nuggets some credit; they didn't give up. They were able to stay in range with some unusually proficient three-point shooting. Anthony Randolph came in and hit a couple of shots (and committed some truly baffling turnovers) and twice they cut what was once a 16-point deficit to six. Unfortunately, every time the Nuggets seemed to make a push, Detroit had an answer. Eventually, the lead ballooned to 10 again and the Nuggets were out of fight.
Foye (25 points) and Chandler (20 points) gave it their best shot, but truthfully this game was over the minute Lawson hobbled off the floor. There are still two difficult road games left before the All-Star break. With no healthy true point guard and Andre Miller still banished to Siberia, the Nuggets are staring at the very real possibility of an 0-4 road trip and further descent in the Western Conference standings. If it wasn't before, the playoff streak is officially in jeopardy.
Game Observations -
- Chauncey Billups never got into the game. On the Altitude telecast, Chris Marlowe said Billups doesn't play back-to-backs this season. Too bad.
- Jennings had a season-high 35 points and 12 assists, and Josh Smith almost had a triple-double with 30 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists. They were a combined 7 of 16 on three pointers, with Jennings hitting 6-11.
- When Lawson was hurt, the Nuggets were up 63-61. They were outscored 65-46 the rest of the way.
- Timofey Mozgov did not have his bounce-back game, managing a measly three points and one rebound in 22 minutes. Mozzy also had a bad sequence in the fourth quarter when the Nuggets were making their comeback, where he fouled Drummond, then gave up a basket, then shoved Drummond in the back and earned a technical foul.
- Detroit was playing their second game in two nights at home, and have another home back-to-back in March. I feel like this never happens to the Nuggets.
- The Nuggets made 15 of 33 three-point shots, and Detroit hit 8 of 20. Obviously, it was not a factor in the outcome of the game.
- Denver had 20 turnovers, again playing loose and sloppy with the ball. This was definitely a factor, as the Pistons finished with 28 fast-break points to six for Denver. Detroit also outscored Denver in the paint 66 to 32.
- Detroit had lost six straight times to the Nuggets going into this game.