Nikola Jokic and Michael Malone both got early trips to the showers courtesy of the officials in the Denver Nuggets third game of their five game road trip. The rest of the Nuggets ground out a gutty win against the Detroit Pistons behind former Pistons Reggie Jackson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Cade Cunningham did everything he could for the home team but when it came to crunch time the Nuggets put on the clamps and held Detroit scoreless for the last two minutes of the game. Denver escapes with a 107-103 win.

The Pistons took a one point lead early in the game with both teams looking like they played last night and were a bit lacking in energy. Denver in particular got sloppy with the ball and couldn’t put together a coherent possession much less score a basket. Marvin Bagley was aggressive for Detroit and helped to push their lead up to eight. The Nuggets pushed back behind Jokic and KCP as their energy picked up. Joker finished a nice eurostep past James Wiseman to get Denver the lead with the quarter winding down. He checked out and Malone went to a full bench lineup. Shortly after that, he was irate about something and expressed his displeasure in a less than gentlemanly fashion to the referee which quickly resulted in consecutive technical fouls and an ejection for the Nuggets head coach. Christian Braun continued his good run of play and carried the bench who closed the quarter strong. After the first it was Denver ahead 27-23.

The bench group started the second quarter but acting head coach David Adelman brought Jackson back in quickly and he helped keep the Nuggets in front along with some tough defense from Zeke Nnaji. Detroit mounted a comeback with Jokic still on the bench, they pulled within three before Nikola checked back in. Cunningham found his confidence in the second to keep Detroit close halfway through the quarter. The teams went back and forth as the quarter progressed with the Nuggets clinging to a slim lead. Jokic got upset with the lack of calls by the referees and he picked up his second technical with a couple minutes left in the half. Then the refs, eager for the spotlight, called double technicals on Aaron Gordon and Bagley. That swung the momentum in Detroit’s favor and they grabbed the lead. Jackson drove to the hoop and used every last tenth of a second in the half to get a layup at the buzzer and get Denver back the lead at 56-55.

Braun joined the starters for the second half with Jokic no longer available. The Nuggets got a mini-run early to build a five point lead and they held it there for a couple of minutes. Detroit pushed back with a 6-0 run behind Bagley and Jaden Ivey. The Nuggets started to find their rhythm from distance though. They knocked down a couple of threes and got the lead back to five to force a Detroit timeout. The game got a little sloppy and Denver suddenly found themselves struggling to finish but Detroit wasn’t able to take advantage. Nobody was able to score any points until Cunningham knocked down a three to get the lead back for Detroit. The bench players came in and continued the offensive struggle. It seemed like Braun was the only player at all who had anything going. Both teams threw up a few more bricks and committed a couple more fouls to close out the quarter. It mercifully ended with the Nuggets leading 81-79.

Denver’s defense was lackluster to open the fourth quarter and Detroit got the lead back forcing David Adelman into an early timeout. Denver didn’t have any rhythm on offense and settled for jumpers which let the Pistons stay in front. Porter wasn’t going to let Denver fall behind though, he kept shooting and knocked down his threes at a strong enough rate to get the lead back for Denver with the quarter almost half over. The Nuggets were missing Jokic’s presence not only on offense but also on the glass. Detroit got several second chances but they didn’t always cash them in as the game remained tight. Denver’s offense went cold again, it seemed like if they could find just one guy on offense to give them consistency they could get a win but with under half the quarter left they were still searching for that guy. Jackson tied the game with an and-one at about the 3 and a half minute mark as we headed towards a tight finish. Denver tightened up the defense while Cunningham tried to single-handedly win the game for Detroit. Jackson and Gordon played a two man game down the stretch and didn’t let Detroit get anything easy. They held a three point lead after securing a rebound with eleven seconds left. Jackson iced it away at the free throw line and Denver somehow finds a way to win 107-103.