Pistons reeling as trade deadline looms

Blake Griffin Reggie Jackson
Posted at 4:37 PM, Feb 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-03 16:50:57-05

(AP) — Injuries to two starters haven't slowed down the Denver Nuggets. They'll bring a six-game winning streak to Detroit when they play the demoralized Pistons on Monday.

Point guard Jamal Murray sat out his fifth straight game on Saturday with an ankle sprain. Backcourt partner Gary Harris missed back-to-back games over the weekend with a groin injury. Their status for Monday is questionable.

Denver shrugged off those ailments and downed Houston on Friday and Minnesota on Saturday. The 107-106 win over the Timberwolves began a four-game road trip. The Nuggets also will make stops at Brooklyn and Philadelphia this week.

The Nuggets are tied with Golden State atop the Western Conference standings at 37-15.

"I told the guys before the game, I said, 'We have the best record on the second night of back to backs,'" said head coach Michael Malone, who was named as the head coach for Team LeBron in the All-Star Game. "That's a credit to you. That's a credit to your resiliency and your toughness.' We got in at four o'clock last night, third game in four days. Those are excuses for teams. We don't use those excuses. We find ways to win no matter what the situation is."

Third-year guard Malik Beasley continued a string of strong performances, scoring a team-high 22 points. He's averaging 24.3 points over the past four games and has led the team in scoring the past three.

"Just knocking down a few shots, thanks to my teammates," Beasley said. "A lot of teams are playing up on me now, so still trying to figure out ways to score in this league and defend and get wins. That's the most important thing, especially as a starter."

Monte Morris, a second-round draft selection in 2017, has delivered some stellar outings in place of Murray. He's averaging 18.3 points, 8.3 assists and 6.7 rebounds over the last three games. He notched his first career double-double at Minnesota with 17 points and 10 assists.

While the Nuggets are rolling, the Pistons are kicking themselves for blowing a 25-point lead at home on Saturday. Their 111-101 home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers left them in stunned disbelief. They've lost five of the past seven games.

"Bad, bad, bad loss," All-Star power forward Blake Griffin said. "Probably one of, if not the worst loss, we've had this year, just being up by so many points and letting our foot off the pedal. But it happened."

During the second-half collapse, the Pistons were outscored 64-36.

"Devastating," coach Dwane Casey said. "We played as good a basketball (game) as we could play (in the first half). We're like two different teams."

The only positive was the continued improvement of much-maligned point guard Reggie Jackson. He had a team-high 29 points, seven assists and no turnovers against the Clippers. He's averaging 20 points and 6.6 assists over the last five games.

Jackson spent most of the summer rehabbing an ankle injury.

"I think people forget, I didn't work out all summer," he said. "The season's been my summer workouts. So just starting to feel better, starting to feel more acclimated. I hadn't really played in two years that much, consistently, so feeling better about myself."