The Denver Nuggets took control of their road contest against the Detroit Pistons early and kept the pressure on all game, winning 103-84. Jamal Murray led the way with 28 points, Will Barton and Gary Harris combined for 19 assists and just 2 turnovers, and Trey Lyles poured in 20 points off the bench in a bid for serious rotation time going forward – but Chandler’s 18 in response showed his fight for his own role. Mason Plumlee put up 10 points and 13 boards while limiting Andre Drummond to just 5 points and 10 rebounds, and Denver limited the Pistons to just 35% from the field as a whole, cruising to a victory they really needed on the road.

Andre Drummond grabbed Jamal Murray's teardrop shot right out of the air for a goaltend to start the game, then crashed into Plumlee for an early foul. The first three minutes were filled with miscues from both teams, both misses and turnovers, but a nice Chandler drive and a wide-open 3 put Denver up 9-3 with 4 minutes gone. More turnovers from each side continue an ugly first quarter through the half-way point in the quarter, with the teams combining for just 19 points in the first seven minutes of game time and an 11-8 Denver lead. Then a fast-break layup from Murray, followed by a Harris steal and a quick Murray three made it 16-8. Detroit found its scoring touch late Denver had 16 points in the paint for the quarter and finished in the lead, 26-18, thanks to plays like this:

Malik Beasley also opened the second quarter with a step-in baseliner, and Trey Lyles hit a three to counter one from Detroit. Beasley’s defense on Ish Smith and his willingness to sprint in transition were both key in the early going as Denver pushed its lead to 33-23 despite 9 from Boban Marjanovic. Darrell Arthur then had a particularly tough stretch of turnovers, botched shots and ineffective defensive possessions that keyed a 7-0 run from Detroit.

Trey Lyles came in and made a couple of buckets and Beasley kept up his effectiveness on both ends as they kept the bench production up between them and maintaining Denver’s lead at 44-36. Plumlee had a great half with 8 points and 11 rebounds and did his job to hamper Drummond and also drive the paint on offense. Denver messed around with missed perimeter shots and turnovers until Chandler hit a crucial three with under a minute to go. Boban threw one in over Murray but Denver still wound up leading at halftime 49-40.

Jamal Murray banged knees with a Piston, then scored Denver’s first 7 points of the half including a nice one-handed slam. Gary Harris hit a couple of buckets and Murray tipped in a Chandler transition miss to make it 64-48, Nuggets.

Murray was on fire in the third and Denver kept up its defensive pressure and its rebounding to push the lead to 20 with four minutes left in the quarter. Plumlee finished off his double-double in the quarter and Denver finished with that 20 point lead and the potential of resting starters for tomorrow’s game against Boston.

Unfortunately Denver’s offense wasn’t there to start the quarter. The Nuggets took three-point attempts on 3 of their first 4 shots, but if their offense was stagnating their defense still held down the Pistons until a Langston Galloway 3 cut it to 82-63 with three minutes gone. The Nuggets had just 6 points in the first 5 minutes of the quarter, but still led by 15 despite Galloway’s continued shot-making.

Denver kept clanking shots until Murray swished a three with 6 minutes to go. Barton came down with a nice rebound and what looked like a bone-on-bone hip contact but stayed in the game after a time out. Trey Lyles discovering his scoring touch in the last two games paid off as well, and helped Denver keep its breathing room. His three-pointer with 3 minutes to go was the final dagger on a team. Monte Morris got his first NBA action and Juancho Hernangomez fulfilled his recent role as a human victory cigar, and Denver coasted home for the victory.

Final Thoughts

  • It was nice to see Denver attacking the rim. Denver faced two players who are both well over 7 feet tall and had no problem punishing the Pistons inside. When Denver lets teams get into them and push them off their spots they aren’t a good team. Keeping the inside pressure up – on the road, no less – created good opportunities for the Nuggets and they converted plenty of them.
  • Jamal Murray keeps showing these sorts of star-making glimpses. And that’s an excellent thing for Denver’s future. It’s nearly impossible to be an outstanding 20 year old in the NBA, and certainly a 20 year old trying to learn point guard at the NBA level. But he’s a gamer, and when his outside shot is on he’s incredibly impactful. For a player who was thought to be an outside shooter who might struggle to finish in the NBA, he’s been the opposite – his finishing has been fine, but his shooting has been a roller-coaster. That actually bodes very, very well for his future since the one thing he should be able to do as his career continues is shoot the lights out. Denver made him untouchable this summer, and Murray is trying to prove them right in his sophomore season.
  • This was the sort of performance Denver has been waiting for from Mason Plumlee. The great rebounder in this game was supposed to be Drummond, but Plumlee more than held his own. Darrell Arthur was simply abused by Boban Marjonovic, but Plumlee was strong enough to fight off that big man as well. Mason made Drummond a complete non-factor on the scoring end and single-handedly turned Denver’s weakness in the game into a strength. As TJ McBride from BSN Denver said in the fourth quarter:

It’ll take more than a few games of that for Mason to live up to his contract, but that game was an excellent start and a glimpse of what Plumlee was signed to do.

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