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Detroit — With an early afternoon tipoff, the Pistons looked to walking in quicksand for the first couple of minutes against the Denver Nuggets. They couldn’t get a defensive stop and the shorthanded Nuggets started 10-of-11 from the field.

The young core entered in the second quarter and pushed the pace, helping the Pistons erase the deficit in the second quarter, hold the lead for the remainder of regulation and take a thrilling 128-123 overtime win over the Nuggets on Sunday afternoon at Little Caesars Arena.

Andre Drummond was a catalyst in the fourth quarter, with 12 of his 21 points, along with 17 rebounds and four assists, and Reggie Jackson carried them with the tying shot with 1:18 left in regulation and two big baskets in overtime.

BOX SCORE: Pistons 128, Nuggets 123, OT

Rookie Sekou Doumbouya led the youth charge with all 17 of his points in the first half, after missing the last game. Jackson finished with 20 points and six assists and Bruce Brown 19 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

“Out of the gate, I didn’t know if we were going to make it through the first half; we were running out of players,” coach Dwane Casey said. “It’s a testament of guys being ready … today before the game, I said it’s going to be an energy game. (Denver) got in late from Milwaukee and they gutted out that game. They had to use a lot of energy with less players.

“We came out flat as a pancake, but the second group came in and played.”

The Pistons (18-33) had a 109-105 lead with 4:17 left in regulation, after Drummond scored on a hook, his third straight basket, giving him 10 of the Pistons’ previous 13 points during the string. Nikola Jokic (39 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists) answered with a drive and a baseline jumper to tie it.

The Nuggets (34-16) took the lead after Will Barton (20 points, nine rebounds and five assists) added a pair of free throws for a 111-109 lead, before Jackson’s tying lay-in at the 1:18 mark. The Pistons had a chance to win it in the final seconds, but Jackson missed a runner in the lane.

CLOSE

The Pistons overcame a 21-point deficit and surged in overtime to beat the Nuggets, 128-123. The Detroit News

The young guys were the big key.

“We went on a little bit of a run. They weren’t getting back on defense, we kept getting out in transition and scoring and the second unit came in and we sparked a lot of energy,” Brown said.

In overtime, Drummond gave the Pistons the lead on a dunk but fouled out. Brown hit a 3-pointer, off an assist from Jackson, starting a 9-2 run, with a jumper from Thon Maker and a leaner from Jackson. Jackson hit another bank shot with 1:11 remaining for a 122-115 lead and the Pistons held on with free throws.

The Jackson-Drummond combination was a reprise to the past few years when they were one of the best pick-and-roll tandems in the league.

“It just worked. We went with something that we knew; we’ve been doing that together for a lot of years,” Jackson said. “Running the pick-and-roll, I think he was comfortable, I was comfortable and the guys around us played well, so we were just trying to find a way to scratch and get the win today.”

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Rose finished with just two points in 13 minutes, and the injury comes at a critical time before Thursday's trade deadline. The Detroit News

Observations

►1.  After sitting out Friday’s game by Casey’s decision, Doumbouya made a nice return, with 17 points and five rebounds. He had 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting in the first quarter, with a couple of nice drives to the rim and scores in the paint.

►2.  Derrick Rose left the game in the second quarter because of left groin soreness and didn’t return. It’s a tough injury for the Pistons, because of Rose’s contributions since entering the starting lineup. He finished with two points in 12 minutes and ended his string of 14 straight games with at least 20 points, which was the longest streak of his career.

►3.  The Pistons were sizzling from 3-point range, hitting xx percent in the game. They were 10-of-18 (56 percent) in the first half, which helped fuel their second-quarter comeback, with a 38-17 margin, with six coming in that quarter and helping to erase the 21-point deficit from the first quarter.

►4.  Casey wisely used a challenge on a foul call against Christian Wood in the third quarter. Monte Morris made was fouled on a 3-pointer and Wood reacted quickly, letting the coaches know that it was a questionable call. Casey and his assistant coaches obliged, issuing the challenge and getting the potential free throws erased.

►5.  Jokic was a handful defensively for the Pistons, because of his versatility in passing and scoring from almost anywhere on the court. Casey said in pregame that it was a tough team assignment and it was the case all game, with Drummond and Wood primarily taking their turns against the All-Star big man.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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