The Denver Nuggets have been so dominant this season that they’ve clinched the Northwest Division with a few weeks left in the regular season.
Nikola Jokic deferred to teammates early before looking for his shot and finished with 30 points to help the Nuggets beat the Detroit Pistons 119-100 on Thursday night and end a season-high four-game losing streak.
“This has to be a building block,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “I told our team it’s a good win. Clinched a playoff spot. Won your division. That’s great. Let this be the start of something special. We lost four in a row, the lowest of the low for us during this season. Now, let’s get back to playing and go on a run.”
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 20 points, Jamal Murray had 19, and Aaron Gordon 15 for the Western Conference-leading Nuggets.
Jokic, the two-time reigning NBA MVP, had three assists and three rebounds before his first attempt several minutes into the game and finished 14 of 18 from the field with 10 rebounds and nine assists.
The short-handed Pistons were competitive for three quarters, leading by as many as seven points in a game with 16 lead changes and 10 ties. The Nuggets picked up their intensity on defence in the fourth and pulled away easily to lead by double digits midway through the quarter.
“A championship team is going to turn up their energy,” Detroit coach Dwane Casey said. “We talked about that during the timeout. We didn’t respond, and that’s part of our growth.”
Rodney McGruder scored 20 for the Pistons, who have lost 12 of 13 games and have the NBA’s worst record. Detroit rookies Jalen Duren had 15 points and 13 assists, while Jaden Ivey added 14 points and six assists.