For 38 minutes, the Detroit Pistons traded blows evenly with the best team in the Western Conference. The Denver Nuggets entered Thursday with 46 wins and a chance to clinch a playoff berth with a win. It looked like they would have to wait until their next game, until a late run allowed them to leave Detroit with a decisive win.
The Pistons took a 91-86 lead at the 10:32 mark of the fourth quarter. Denver dominated from there, closing with a 33-9 run to blow out the Pistons, 119-110. A 3-pointer from Rodney McGruder, who went 6-for-10 on 3s en route to 20 points and eight rebounds, with four seconds remaining kept the final deficit below 20.
Jalen Duren had a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds (five on offense), and James Wiseman (14 points, nine rebounds), Jaden Ivey (14 points, six assists), Cory Joseph (13 points), Eugene Omoruyi ( 11 points) and Killian Hayes (10 points, seven assists) also scored in double figures. Ivey was playing his first game after spending five days in the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
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Nikola Jokic led all players with 30 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. The final score masked a game that was competitive through the first three quarters and featured 10 ties and 16 lead changes. Detroit’s biggest lead was early in the third quarter, when Omoruyi knocked down a 3-pointer to extend their advantage to 67-60.
Detroit went cold in the final quarter, shooting 6-for-18, including a 2-for-6 performance beyond the arc, while turning the ball over five times. Through the first three quarters, the Pistons shot 49.3% and went 10-for-21 from 3 while dishing out 21 assists against 11 turnovers.
Duren energizes off the bench, shows chemistry with Wiseman
During his pregame press conference, Nuggets head coach Michael Malone singled out Duren as a reason the Nuggets needed to be on their A-game. Specifically, Malone knew Duren’s offensive rebounding could be tough for his team to contend with.
Since returning from a six-game absence caused by ankle soreness, Duren has averaged five offensive rebounds a game — best in the league during that stretch. But the offensive glass has been a strength for the rookie big man all season, as he’s tied for fourth overall in the league with 3.4 per game.
As Malone noted, the Pistons are good at scoring after missed shots.
“These guys just dominate on the offensive glass,” Malone said. “Last five games, they’re No. 1 in offensive rebounds per game. Wiseman is finding himself, and they keep Duren off the bench. He’s gotta be the best offensive rebounder off the bench in the NBA, I think he’s averaging five offensive rebounds in his last five games.
“If we don’t protect the paint, and we don’t limit this team to one shot, I’m drowning my sorrows in a green beer tomorrow.”
Malone’s comments were prescient, as Duren’s offensive rebounding helped the Pistons take control in the second quarter and enter the third with the game tied at 86. He contributed to eight consecutive points to power an 18-5 run that gave Detroit a 49-44 lead. midway through the period, with his first four points in that stretch being second-chance points off of missed layups. Duren also assisted a transition dunk from Ivey after stealing the ball from Jokic, and a hook following a drive and dump-off pass from Omoruyi.
Duren subbed in for Omoruyi and joined the starters with 8:21 to play in the third season, marking the first time this season Pistons coach Dwane Casey played Duren and Wiseman together for extended minutes. The Pistons trailed by two when he checked in, and led 80-79 when Wiseman checked out at the 2:29 mark. They were productive in that stretch, largely thanks to Duren’s passing.
Duren and Wiseman connected for two alley-oops during that almost six-minute stretch, with Duren being the play initiator both times. Neither player has shown that they can space the floor, but Duren’s ability to see the floor made the combination workable.
Ivey returns from health and safety protocols
The Pistons had been COVID-free all season until Ivey became their first player to enter health and safety protocols last Friday. It caused the rookie guard to miss three games, and Casey said before Thursday’s game that Ivey spent five days isolated in a hotel room.
Casey hinted that Ivey’s minutes would be limited if he did play, but he finished the night with 35 minutes in what ended up being a competitive game until early in the fourth quarter. Ivey started slowly, missing his first four shots before getting on the board with a pair of free throws early in the second quarter.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Pistons demolished by Denver Nuggets in 4Q, 119-100