Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin, right, works the ball inside as Denver Nuggets forward Paul Millsap defends in the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 15, 2018, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
DENVER — Nikola Jokic had 23 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for his eighth triple-double of the season, Jamal Murray added 26 points and the Denver Nuggets’ playoff hopes received a much-needed boost with a 120-113 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Thursday night.
Will Barton hit a big basket down the stretch and later knocked down two free throws to help the Nuggets hold off a Pistons team that trailed by as many as 26 points in the third quarter. The Nuggets now hit the road for a pivotal seven-game trip.
The fading Pistons dropped their 11th straight road game despite Andre Drummond scoring 21 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. It was Drummond’s 51st double-double of the season.
Blake Griffin added 26 points and nine assists.
The Pistons cut the deficit to 102-97 with 6:55 remaining. Gary Harris hit a scoop shot and then had a fast-break dunk in which he was fouled. He landed awkwardly on his right leg and after a timeout he hit the free throw. He then left the game.
Jokic was a handful for his center counterpart Drummond — and vice versa. Jokic had trouble with Drummond’s strength down low, and Drummond struggled with Jokic’s range as he frequently took Drummond outside.
Jokic’s eight triple-doubles are the most by a Nuggets player in a season since Fat Lever had nine in 1988-89.
Denver’s big second-half lead melted away with the Pistons heating up behind the play of Dwight Buycks, who had 19 of his 22 points in the second half.
Pistons guard Reggie Bullock returned to score 17 points after missing a game with a sore back.
Detroit’s last road victory was Jan. 10 at Brooklyn, and the Pistons were coming off a 110-79 loss at Utah on Tuesday.
The Pistons are at Portland on Saturday in stop No. 3 on a six-game trip, while the Nugget begin a long road trip at Memphis on Saturday.
Ben Wallace is joined by family members during his jersey retirement ceremony with the Detroit Pistons in 2016.
Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris drives past the Pistons’ Stanley Johnson during the first meeting between the teams this season.