AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Brandon Jennings had a season-high 35 points to go with 12 assists, Josh Smith had 30 points and the Detroit Pistons avoided another fourth-quarter collapse in a 126-109 win over the Denver Nuggets Saturday night.
The game didn’t quite match the highest-scoring game in NBA history, Detroit’s 186-184 triple-overtime win over Denver 30 years ago, but still saw 11 players score in double figures and the Pistons put up a season high in points.
Rodney Stuckey added 19 points for Detroit, while Andre Drummond had 18 points and 15 rebounds.
Randy Foye led the Nuggets with 25 points, while Wilson Chandler scored 20 and J.J. Hickson added 15 points and 16 rebounds. Denver lost point guard Ty Lawson to a back strain late in the first half. Evan Fournier replaced him at the start of the second half, with Foye moving from shooting guard to the point.
With both teams on the second half of back-to-back games, it was clear early that this was not going to be a defensive struggle. The Nuggets jumped out to a quick lead by hitting their first four 3-point attempts, but Detroit was able to get to the rim at will, scoring 40 points in the paint before halftime.
The Nuggets kept the advantage for most of the half, thanks to seven 3-pointers, but Jennings hit three straight treys late in the second quarter to give Detroit a 65-61 lead at the break. Jennings had 17 points and eight assists, one night after missing a triple-double by an assist, while Drummond had 10 points and 11 rebounds for his 38th double-double in 50 games.
Chandler and Foye combined for 23 points in the half – 21 on 3-pointers – but Denver had to adjust their attack with Lawson on the bench. The Nuggets turned the ball over twice in the opening moments of the third quarter, but Hickson pulled down six rebounds in the first three minutes of the period to keep Denver in the game.
Drummond had a spectacular putback dunk over Hickson to give the Pistons an 87-75 lead late in the period, and Jennings was able to take advantage of a matchup with Anthony Randolph to move the margin to as many as 16.
Denver was back within 97-86 at quarter’s end, putting the pressure on a Detroit team that has struggled all season to hold fourth-quarter leads. Sure enough, even though Brian Shaw had to go to Randolph and Jordan Hamilton, the Nuggets used an 8-0 lead to pull within 106-100 with 7:14 to play.
Detroit forced enough turnovers to end Denver’s surge and Jennings iced the game with a pair of late 3-pointers.