Pistons salvage win from western trip finale

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Denver — In the first three losses on their western road trip, the Pistons played poorly and seemed to be a mile from getting a win.

In the final game, they had to go to the Mile High City to end the skid.

At least they were able to salvage something.

After a horrendous start to the week, the Pistons finished it with their best game of the road trip, taking a wire-to-wire victory, 106-95, over the Nuggets on Saturday night at Pepsi Center.

The Pistons built a 17-point lead in the second quarter but had to hold on in the second half before getting their first road win of the season — and ending their seven-game losing streak at Denver, dating to 2009.

BOX SCORE: Pistons 106, Nuggets 95

In sweeping the season series with the Nuggets — with a 17-point win last Saturday — the Pistons never trailed in either game. But ending the losing streak and getting a road win were priorities.

“Everybody in this locker room was focused and locked in and our main goal was to get this win today and we accomplished it,” said Tobias Harris, who had 19 points. “It’s not the road trip we wanted but to end it on a good note and go back home, we learned a lot.

“It was good to gain something from it and know what we have to do to be better.”

The Pistons (5-5) have another tough stretch this week: at home against the Thunder on Monday, at the Knicks on Wednesday and at the world-champion Cavaliers on Friday.

Marcus Morris scored nine of his 17 points in the third quarter, Andre Drummond had his fifth straight double-double, with 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Jon Leuer had 14 points and 10 boards off the bench.

The Nuggets (3-6) trailed, 80-71, entering the fourth quarter and trimmed it to seven on Nikola Jokic’s tip-in on their first possession. Harris answered with a 3-pointer but the Nuggets kept chipping away. Jameer Nelson (11 points) hit a 3-pointer and a jumper and Juan Hernangomez added a tip-in during a 7-2 spurt that cut the deficit to five with 8:48 left.

Morris responded with a baseline jumper and Stanley Johnson hit a pull-up jumper to make it an 89-80 advantage.

The Pistons couldn’t pull away, though, as the Nuggets matched their baskets. Morris hit back-to-back jumpers and Denver got two straight baskets, including a 3-pointer by Danilo Gallinari (18 points) to pull within 93-89 with 4:16 left.

Drummond, who got his fourth foul midway through the third quarter, returned and got loose for a dunk and on the next possession, then converted a hook in the lane. The Nuggets managed to split pairs of free throws on their next two trips but the Pistons answered with jumpers from Ish Smith (10 points) and Harris to inflate the lead to 103-95 with 1:07 left — and they cruised from there.

Morris said that getting some touches on offense helped him get into a rhythm and his four straight jumpers helped him get locked in.

“It just built a little rhythm. Going into the second half, I felt as though I had to make plays,” Morris said. “If I didn’t (produce), it would have been a tough game for us to win. Stan noticed that and kept feeding me.”

With Reggie Jackson sidelined, the Pistons needed a go-to scorer to close out the game and Morris and Harris combined to end the road skid.

“Marcus’ confidence is great and he got in his game,” Van Gundy said. “Marcus was able to get space and get his shot up.”

The Pistons had a hot start in the first quarter, shooting 64 percent (16-of-25), with seven points from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (14 points total) and six each from Smith and Harris. They forced seven first-quarter turnovers and dominated with 20 points in the paint.

The Nuggets missed their first four field goals and fell behind, 13-4, in the first five minutes. But Emmanuel Mudiay (19 points) fueled the comeback, scoring eight straight Denver points, including a drive and a pair of 3-pointers.

The Pistons had a season-high 36 points in the first quarter and had a 15-point advantage.

Denver rallied in the second quarter, with a 28-21 margin, to cut the lead to 57-49 at halftime.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard