The Denver Nuggets (10-7) fall to the Detroit Pistons (4-15) 110-108 at home. While the injury report looked dreadful pre-game, the Nuggets were almost fully together tonight. Nikola Jokić and Jamal Murray both returned from Health & Safety protocols after missing the previous 2 and 3 games respectively. Denver also had Aaron Gordon return after missing 3 games. The Nuggets are now 5-1 in their last 6 games versus the Pistons. Detroit also grabs their first road win of the season, while still playing down 3 starting-caliber players.
In his 500th career start, Nikola Jokić put up 31 points, 9 rebounds, and 10 assists. But, that was not enough to overcome the Pistons contributions from Alec Burks and Bojan Bogdanovic. Burks finished with 21 points, many of them important baskets, but, Bogdanovic led the Pistons with 22 points. Both teams severely struggled from three tonight, Detroit shot 8-28 (28.6%) and Denver shot 5-19 (26.3%). Denver’s bench was also outscored by Detroit’s bench 22 to 53.
Bojan Bogdanovic starts the game off with a layup inside and follows it up with a corner three on the next possession. Killian Hayes gets a three-pointer of his own to go and the Pistons jump out to an 8-0 lead. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope opens things up for Denver with a mid-range and then throws an alley-oop to Aaron Gordon.
The Nuggets play some tough defense to start the game and force 4 turnovers early in the quarter. Coach Malone calls a timeout following a layup by Bogdanovic, he has 11 points halfway through the quarter. Jokić has a foul drawn on him by Marvin Bagley III and Coach Malone uses his challenge early in the game, it was not successful. The Nuggets went on a 21-8 run after dropping behind 8-0 to start the game. Jokić was not being double-teamed to start the game, he checks out with 6 points and 4 assists. Once the Nuggets starters checked out the offense slowed down, only scoring 4 points in the last 3 minutes of the quarter. Denver destroyed the paint in the 1st, they had 22 of their 29 points in the paint. Nuggets are up 29-28 after one.
Christian Braun enters the game and grabs an offensive rebound that leads to a Bruce Brown three. The Nuggets give up a 10-0 run following Brown’s three, they also commit back-to-back offensive screening fouls and Coach Malone calls a timeout. Nikola Jokić comes back into the game and immediately gets an and-1. Without Jokić, Denver was outscored 18-9. Once Jokić came back into the game, the Nuggets went on a 6-0 run forcing a Detroit timeout.
Detroit followed their timeout by going on another 9-0 run, increasing their lead to 9. Jokić makes a layup at the 3:30 mark in the quarter, ending a near 4-minute drought of only free throws for Denver. Michael Porter Jr. scores on back-to-back possessions bringing the deficit down to one, Aaron Gordon gets a dunk on the next possession and takes back the lead. Denver has given great effort on the defensive side of the ball, not allowing a single free throw to Detroit until the 1:11 mark of the second quarter. KCP is called for a Flagrant 1 foul and then Isaiah Livers is called for his own Flagrant 1 foul on an Aaron Gordon three. AG goes 0-3 on the free throws and the Nuggets go into halftime down by 1, 58-57 at the break.
*Bones Hyland did not return after halftime due to illness*
MPJ gets a tough layup to kick things off for Denver. He engaged himself a lot more defensively after halftime, MPJ blocks a shot off the glass and then gets an and-1 on the other side of the court.
The Nuggets force back-to-back steals and KCP connects on a corner three to get the lead back to 1 for Denver. MPJ has scored 11 points in the quarter alone. Zeke Nnaji enters the game earlier than normal and immediately gets a layup after a Bruce Brown steal. Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon sub out and the Pistons go on a 9-0 run. The Nuggets have been dominating the paint all game but have been lacking from three, shooting 3-15 at the end of the 3rd quarter. Jokić checks out and leaves the rest of the quarter to the bench, Bruce Brown scores but the Nuggets trail by 2 entering the fourth, 83-81.
Both teams trade baskets to start the final quarter, but the Pistons jump out on a 9-2 run after. Jamal Murray is playing with the bench unit, and even with his help, the Nuggets bench struggled to get much going. After only scoring 2 points in three minutes, Coach Malone calls timeout and brings Jokić, MPJ, and KCP back into the game. The Nuggets completely fell apart to start the 4th, allowing a 15-3 run for Detroit. Denver’s offense couldn’t get anything going and couldn’t defend Detroit either. The Nuggets have surrendered 3 turnovers in the quarter. But, behind an Aaron Gordon transition three, the Nuggets are down by 8 with 5 minutes left.
Joker euro-steppin' to the basket pic.twitter.com/eFhX7DuIQ8— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) November 23, 2022
The Nuggets cannot stop fouling on defense, whether they are actual fouls or not is a different discussion. The Nuggets go on a 7-0 run behind a KCP three and Jamal Murray’s layup, Denver closes the lead down to 4 with 3 minutes to go. The Pistons were still not double-teaming Jokić, he makes the deficit 1 with a post-up and a free throw. Alec Burks knocks down some clutch free throws and the Pistons go up by 3 again. Burks gets a mid-range to go over Jamal Murray and the lead jumps to 5 for Detroit. Jokić draws some free throws, he hits both. After the ball is poked loose, Alec Burks travels and Jokić brings the Pistons lead down to 1 with a post up. Bogdanovic is fouled, but he makes both free throws. With the Nuggets down by 3 and only 3 seconds left, Cory Joesph fouls and sends Jamal Murray to the line. He makes the first free throw, he misses the second, Aaron Gordon grabs the rebound but misses the game-tying shot. The Nuggets lose 110-108.
This was an ugly loss for Denver. Giving a team their first road win is never fun, it’s even worse when that team is 0-10 on the road and is playing without 3 of their best players. Denver is not beating any NBA team shooting 5-19 from three or only adding 22 points from the bench. Every single Nuggets bench player +/- was negative. While tonight was a disappointing loss, there is some optimism knowing that this game allowed Jokić, Murray, and Gordon to get back adjusted after being out sick.