On Super Bowl Sunday, there was a bit of hardwood action as the shorthanded Denver Nuggets traveled out East to face-off against the Detroit Pistons in their earliest game of the entire season.
The Nuggets went into Sunday’s game fresh off of two of their most impressive wins of the season — a hellacious back-to-back set against the Utah Jazz and Milwaukee Bucks — and they looked to make that three-straight with a win in Detroit despite having even more players injured for Denver.
Detroit went into the game losers of five-straight games and they were also without their franchise player Blake Griffin who underwent season-ending surgery last month.
The Nuggets went up big early in the game, but Detroit used a big run to get back in the game and closed Denver out in overtime.
Denver gave a valiant effort despite being undermanned and fatigued, but they could not come away with the win as they fell 128-123 in overtime and with that, I give you the good, bad and ugly.
Good – Nuggets have a season-best opening quarter
Not only was it an early start for the Nuggets, but they had played three games in four days, were without starters Jamal Murray and Paul Millsap, and were also without reserves Mason Plumlee and Michael Porter Jr.
They were exhausted and had a depleted lineup.
Despite that, Denver came out of the gates hot and showed no signs of being worn-out.
In fact, the Nuggets had one of their best opening quarters of the entire season as they put up a season-high 44 points to open up the game.
Denver led 44-30 after the first quarter thanks to a flurry of baskets as they went to Nikola Jokic early and often. He understood that he had the mismatch against Andre Drummond and was assertive against the best rebounding big man in the entire NBA.
Jokic finished the opening quarter with eight points, five rebounds and also four assists.
While Jokic got himself going early, it was a concerted effort by the Nuggets overall as they were ultra-productive as a unit.
Denver shot a scorching 69.2% from the field and also has 12 assists to zero turnovers which were a big reason that they got out to a big lead.
The Nuggets got inside as they had 20 points in the paint and got help from their bench unit as well to start out with one of the best starts of the season.
Bad – Second quarter let down
As great as the Nuggets played in the first quarter, there was a lapse in the second as the Pistons got right back within striking distance.
After the first quarter, Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said that he was satisfied with the offense, but did not like how his team was playing defense. He understood that the Pistons are a team that would not give up and would get right back in the game.
Detroit did just that as they used a huge second-quarter run to get back in the game.
The Nuggets led by as many as 21 points in the first quarter, but at halftime Denver trailed 68-65.
Detroit went on a 24-2 run to get right back in the game as they took away the offensive flow that the Nuggets had earlier in the game.
At the halftime break, Detroit was led by Sekou Doumbouya who had 17 points to lead them in their big turnaround. Bruce Brown had 12 points as well.
Detroit’s bench also had a 27-13 advantage over the Nuggets’ second unit and played a big part in the Pistons getting back in the game and going into halftime with a lead.
The Nuggets continue to struggle to find ways to close the door on teams after taking big leads in the game. Against the Pistons, it was a second-quarter collapse which ended up getting the, back in this matchup and ultimately winning the game.
Ugly – Nuggets struggle to close
Denver came out scorching hot and this looked like a game that the Nuggets were going to run away with, but fatigue ended up being a factor.
The Nuggets had a great start to the game and tied their highest-scoring quarter of any game this season, and also led by as many as 21 points, but after that, the Nuggets offense collapsed and their defense also could not find their footing.
The Pistons went on a run to get back in the game and also gave the Nuggets different looks as they went into a zone a few different times throughout the game and it took entirely too long for the Nuggets to figure out how to get around it.
Denver finally got into a flow and fought through their fatigue and found a way to force overtime, but this was a game that Denver could have won on the final possession.
Denver had the ball with 26.8 seconds remaining in the game with the game tied at 111-111.
Jokic has been one of the most clutch players in the league this season and also had 33 points in the game, yet, Will Barton III is who the Nuggets went with to take the final shot in regulation.
Barton III got a good look at it, but had Jokic standing there wide open as Barton missed the shot and sent it into overtime.
In overtime, the Nuggets offense again hit a standstill as Detroit won the extra period 17-12 to end their five-game losing streak.
The Nuggets deserve credit for the way that they fought in the game and hung around, but when you have a big lead and opportunity to give it to your best player down the stretch, give it to him and live with the results.