DENVER (AP) — Nikola Jokic had 23 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for his eighth triple-double of the season, Jamal Murray added 26 points and the Denver Nuggets’ playoff hopes received a much-needed boost with a 120-113 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Thursday night.
Will Barton hit a big basket down the stretch and later knocked down two free throws to help the Nuggets hold off a Pistons team that trailed by as many as 26 points in the third quarter. The Nuggets now hit the road for a pivotal seven-game trip.
The fading Pistons dropped their 11th straight road game despite Andre Drummond scoring 21 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. Blake Griffin added 26 points and nine assists.
Jokic’s eight triple-doubles are the most by a Nuggets player in a season since Fat Lever had nine in 1988-89.
Denver’s big second-half lead melted away with the Pistons heating up behind the play of Dwight Buycks, who had 19 of his 22 points in the second half.
The Pistons cut the deficit to 102-97 with 6:55 remaining. Gary Harris hit a scoop shot and then had a fast-break dunk in which he was fouled. He landed awkwardly on his right leg and after a timeout he hit the free throw. He then left the game.
Jokic was a handful for his center counterpart Drummond — and vice versa. Jokic had trouble with Drummond’s strength down low, and Drummond struggled with Jokic’s range as he frequently took Drummond outside.
Pistons: G Reggie Bullock returned to score 17 points after missing a game with a sore back. … It was Drummond’s 51st double-double of the season. … Detroit’s last road victory was Jan. 10 at Brooklyn. … Drummond received a technical in the second quarter. … Detroit was coming off a 110-79 loss at Utah on Tuesday.
Nuggets: Nuggets coach Mike Malone put this game in the “very important” category with his team about to embark on a long trip. “This is a game we feel we have to have,” Malone said. … NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was in attendance. … The Nuggets improve to 27-10 at the Pepsi Center.
Denver’s bench was much more efficient with 46 points as Malone resisted the temptation to shake things up. Barton led the way with 23.
The Nuggets’ reserves had just 25 at Los Angeles on Tuesday.
“By no means is it time to panic,” Malone said.
Pistons: At Portland on Saturday in stop No. 3 on a six-game trip.
Nuggets: Their long trip begins at Memphis on Saturday.