Den­ver drops Detroit 104-101

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Christo­pher Dempsey Christo­pher Dempsey: cdempsey@den­ver­post.com or @dempsey­post

The first or­der of busi­ness was fig­ur­ing out a strat­egy against, the big­gest, bad­dest in­side force in the NBA -- Detroit be­he­moth An­dre Drum­mond.

The se­cond or­der of busi­ness was to turn neu­tral­iz­ing Drum­mond into a vic­tory.

The Nuggets checked off both boxes.

Their 104-101 vic­tory over the Pis­tons on Satur­day night at the Pepsi Cen­ter took awhile to take shape, but when it did, the Nuggets thrived. And then they made de­fen­sive plays nec­es­sary at the end of the game to seal it.

To get to the end, they sim­ply small-balled the 6-foot-11, 280pound Drum­mond out of the game.

Foul trou­ble did the trick early on. Drum­mond played two min­utes be­fore pick­ing up two fouls. Still, early in his ab­sence, Detroit con­tin­ued to play like a well-oiled ma­chine. The Pis­tons had 22 of their first 41 points in the paint, largely with­out Drum­mond. They dom­i­nated the boards early, 24-9, also with­out Drum­mond on the court.

So there was con­sid­er­able work to do for the Nuggets.

The first course of ac­tion was get­ting Drum­mond away from the bas­ket, mak­ing him guard Nuggets rookie cen­ter Nikola Jo­kic, who took — and made — jump shots to make it hap­pen. It was part of a big third quar­ter.

That third quar­ter was one of the best the Nuggets have put to­gether this sea­son, and it be­gan with the starters. Em­manuel Mu­diay made his first five shots of the third, and he and Jo­kic com­bined to score 19 of the Nuggets’ first 26 points in the pe­riod.

Guard Gary Har­ris got in the act, too, mak­ing all three of his shots en route to seven points in the third. The Nuggets, who trailed 54-45 at half­time, hit the Pis­tons with a 20-8 start in third, outscored the Pis­tons 39-20 over­all and turned that deficit into a 10-point lead go­ing into the fourth.

But the re­serves couldn’t hold it.

It took the Pis­tons 4 ½ min­utes to erase the en­tire lead, and they outscore the Nuggets 18-5 be­fore coach Michael Malone was forced to put starters back in the gamea lit­tle ear­lier than nor­mal. The Pis­tons’ run be­came 20-5 be­fore the Nuggets had four starters back in, and then Jo­kic’s in­ser­tion into the game with just un­der seven min­utes meant all five were back — but with a lot of time to burn to get to the fin­ish line.

Aron Baynes hit a layup with 48.3 sec­onds to play to put the Pis­tons up 101-100.

But the Nuggets weren’t done. On the next pos­ses­sion, Danilo Gal­li­nari got the ball, faced up Pis­tons de­fender Mar­cus Mor­ris and hit a step-back jumper with 23.8 sec­onds to play to put the Nuggets up 102-101. The Nuggets got a Har­ris steal and then a Jo­kic blocked shot to pre­serve the lead— and the vic­tory.

Gal­li­nari led the Nuggets with 30 points. Mu­diay had one of his best games of the sea­son, scor­ing 18 points, adding four as­sists and four re­bounds. They were two of four Nuggets in dou­ble fig­ures.

Nuggets guard Randy Foye gets his shot blocked by Detroit Pis­tons cen­ter Aron Baynes on Satur­day night at the Pepsi Cen­ter. David Zalubowski, The As­so­ci­ated Press

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