The Denver Nuggets absolutely needed a win any way they could get one on Thursday night against the Detroit Pistons. They managed it with an impressive fourth quarter run, winning 119-100 after being tied at 86 through three quarters.

Nikola Jokić was fantastic with 30 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 assists on 14-of-18 shooting. He kept the Nuggets in the game while the starters struggled to find a rhythm early.

Jamal Murray had a nice bounce back game too, scoring 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting and 2-of-5 from three. He added 10 assists and 6 rebounds to that tally, leading the team with a +21 plus-minus while playing the majority of the fourth quarter.

Christian Braun’s energy certainly assisted the Nuggets too. He made big plays on both ends of the floor, scoring 9 points, grabbing three rebounds, and accumulating three steals + blocks in his 20 minutes. The bench unit in the second half of Murray, Braun, Bruce Brown, Jeff Green, and Thomas Bryant did some good things. Braun was the primary catalyst though.


Here are my takeaways from the Nuggets matchup with the Pistons on Detroit on Thursday evening:

Nikola Jokić is really good

It doesn’t take a genius to see it. Joker was hungry for a win tonight and looked about as comfortable as he has all season going against the young center duo of James Wiseman and Jalen Duren. Jokić was in complete control when he touched the ball, doing anything he wanted in the post, off movement, and directing traffic at the top. The Nuggets sometimes didn’t get Jokić the ball when necessary, but he made the most of every opportunity.

Jokić finished the game with 30 points on 14-of-18 from the field to go with 10 rebounds, 9 assists, a steal, and a block. Everything came pretty easy to him tonight, and he showed just how casually dominant he can be with some of the post moves he was making.

Jokić has been mostly great offensively, even during the losing streak. It was nice to see those efforts well rewarded with a road win on Thursday, even if things didn’t look great in the first three quarters.

The rest of the starting group found its rhythm late

During the first three quarters, the Nuggets could barely shoot from the perimeter. Jokić was facilitating, and the starters were mostly trying to attack the paint. The few times they tried to space though, it didn’t work. Michael Porter Jr. was struggling in particular, and Aaron Gordon spent most of his time in the dunker spot anyway.

It took until the second half for things to flow better around Jokić. Murray put up good numbers but made some mistakes in the first half. He tightened things up in the second half, hit two three-pointers, and set the table for the bench unit (more on that later). Porter returned and found some easy baskets off Jokić dimes, as did Gordon. Caldwell-Pope also shot 4-of-4 in the second half. That definitely helps.

The starters have to be the bedrock of all Nuggets rotations, and they have to be positive. Things get weird when the starters aren’t good, but the Nuggets found a rhythm in the second half that could give them at least a small boost heading into the rest of this road trip.

The bench found a rhythm with Christian Braun

The Nuggets have obviously been scrambling to shore up the non-Jokić minutes lately, but one thing that haven’t tried extensively is playing no point guard. Bruce Brown slid over to the point guard spot tonight, and Caldwell-Pope staggered with the second unit. Christian Braun, Jeff Green, and Thomas Bryant rounded out the rotation.

While it wasn’t perfect in any sense of the word, KCP hit some important shots in the second quarter to prop things up. KCP was the first option with that group and shouldered much of the scoring creation duties. Brown had a steal-and-score. Braun had a drive-and-dunk. Green did some good things while out there.

Murray went out there with the bench during the second half, and though it had shaky moments, the group was mostly stable. Braun was really big in the fourth quarter, doing some great things on both ends and hitting clutch shots. Hopefully, this can be a sign of things to come rather than a blip on the radar.

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