Nuggets hold off severly short-handed Pistons squad

Will Barton scored 15 of his 20 points in the final period, and the Nuggets held off the depleted Detroit Pistons 103-92 on Wednesday night.

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Will Barton lifted the Denver Nuggets with another impressive fourth quarter.

Barton scored 15 of his 20 points in the final period, and the Nuggets held off the depleted Detroit Pistons 103-92 on Wednesday night.

Denver enters the All-Star break having won four of six.

"Very happy that we were able to close it out," coach Michael Malone said. "The second half, I thought our defence was terrific."

Detroit was without three starters. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been out with a core muscle strain, and the team announced before the game that Reggie Jackson and Ersan Ilyasova had been ill and would be sidelined as well.

"We just don’t defend. We didn’t get back and we didn’t do our jobs," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. "It had nothing to do with guys being sick or out."

Denver led by eight early in the fourth, but the Pistons closed to 83-82 after consecutive 3-pointers by Anthony Tolliver. Randy Foye made a 3 to halt that run, and Denver was able to hold onto its lead the rest of the way.

Andre Drummond had 15 points and 17 rebounds for Detroit but shot 7 of 22 from the field.

In the last game before the All-Star break for both teams, Detroit retired Chauncey Billups’ No. 1 at halftime. The Pistons led 53-52 at the half, but this was always going to be a bit of a struggle for them with so many key players out.

Marcus Morris led the Pistons with 19 points. Detroit has lost six of eight.

Barton came into the game ranked in the top 10 in the league in fourth-quarter scoring with an average of 6.2 points. He now has six quarters of at least 15 points this season — as many as LeBron James.

"We need him to score. Will has been a sparkplug for us all year," Malone said. "I put the ball in his hands. The first half, I didn’t give him many touches, but he’s had some really big scoring nights this season."

BENCH SCORING

Denver’s reserves outscored Detroit’s 46-25. Barton was a big part of that, and so was Jusuf Nurkic, who had 16 points and 11 rebounds.

"Will, he’s been doing that kind of the whole season, but Jusuf, I think that was the biggest surprise," guard Emmanuel Mudiay said. "Him coming in and doing what he did, as far as a double-double."

STRETCHED THIN

The Pistons used only eight players, with Darrun Hilliard playing a season-high 26:37 and Steve Blake receiving extended minutes as well.

"We did some good stuff, but we slipped up on too many of the small things. That’s what we have to worry about fixing after the break, but I know we’re capable of doing it," Blake said. "Personally, I enjoyed playing, but I’m sure Coach would have liked more lineup options."

TIP-INS

Nuggets: Mudiay has scored in double figures in 13 of his last 17 games. He had 14 points Wednesday. … Denver outscored Detroit in the paint 62-46 and held the Pistons to six second-chance points.

Pistons: Detroit (27-27) enters the All-Star break at or above .500 for the first time since the Pistons were 27-24 in 2009. That was also the year of their most recent playoff appearance. … It was the second-most field goal attempts for Drummond in a game this season. He had 25 in a December win at Chicago that went four overtimes. … Detroit has allowed at least 100 points in eight consecutive games.

UP NEXT

Nuggets: At Sacramento on Feb. 19.

Pistons: At Washington on Feb. 19.