You can’t win all of them. For the third time in 62 hours the undermanned Denver Nuggets laced up for a basketball game and it showed. For a brief moment it looked like they didn’t skip a beat from the last two wins, but in the end the Pistons were able to pull away in overtime.
Led by a tandem of Will Barton III and Nikola Jokic Denver cruised to a 44-30 first quarter lead (even leading by 21 at one point) and the blowout was supposed to be on. As the very shorthanded bench players trickled in, though, the Pistons were able to heat up and drain three after three after three to climb back in.
The entire second half turned into a slugfest with neither team really able to pull away. Both Barton and Reggie Jackson missed attempts at the end of regulation and in overtime Jackson took over as the fatigued Nuggets simply could not score.
Nikola Jokic was nothing short of dominant, putting up another triple-double of 39 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists. He had his way with both Andre Drummond and Christian Wood and was clearly the best player on the court all night. Barton continued his revenge season tour with a solid 20-9-5 night, and Monte Morris also deserves recognition for his 19 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists.
Denver really missed the presence of Michael Porter Jr. in this one. His minutes were taken by Juancho Hernangomez who was a sieve on defense and contributed nothing on offense, coinciding with Detroit’s huge run in the late first and early second quarters that put them back in the game. It’s not difficult to think at all that had MPJ been in this would have been a completely different game.
Also of note is that Gary Harris was back with the team but actually came off the bench. It’s likely Malone wanted to ride the hot hand with the group (Morris/Barton/Craig/Grant/Joker) that helped beat the Bucks but there is some merit to switching things up for Garris. After missing the last two contests his return should have been a boon for the team but it just wasn’t. He didn’t score until late in the game (1-for-6 on the night) and continues to look timid when handling the ball. Honestly, the most productive thing he did was foul out Drummond in overtime. That’s it.
Losing to inferior teams sucks but solace is taken from the wins over Utah and Milwaukee. Now, the Nuggets will enjoy just one day off before starting another deathly back-to-back set on Tuesday and Wednesday against Portland and Utah, who conveniently both will have multiple rest days before facing Denver. Thanks, NBA.