The Denver Nuggets have secured home-court advantage in the first round of the upcoming NBA playoffs.
But Denver still could improve its seeding with two games left and will try to do so when it travels to Detroit to face the Pistons on Friday night.
The Nuggets (46-24), who are fourth in the Western Conference, beat Minnesota 114-103 on Thursday as Nikola Jokic scored 31 points and pulled down 14 rebounds to help Denver win its second in a row and stay within one game of the third-place Los Angeles Clippers.
The Pistons (20-50) have lost three in a row and 10 of their past 12 following a 119-100 loss to the Timberwolves on Tuesday.
Denver established its size advantage early against the Timberwolves with Jokic and JaVale McGee, who finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds. It was the first time the two started together, giving the Nuggets another look they can implement as they prepare for the playoffs.
"I think we can go with a lot of different options," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. "As we approach the playoffs with now two games to go, we can try some more different things."
Jokic set the tone for Denver with 16 points in the first quarter as he and McGee combined for 27 rebounds.
"I definitely think this could be a lineup in the future, especially with teams that play two bigs," McGee said. "I definitely feel like it gives Joke definitely some time off his legs on the defensive end."
The Pistons extended coach Dwane Casey through the 2023-24 season this week. Detroit owner Tom Gores has been pleased with Casey's leadership during a difficult, rebuilding season.
Casey, 64, is 81-137 in three seasons with the Pistons. Prior to coaching Detroit, Casey was the NBA's Coach of the Year in 2017 with the Toronto Raptors.
"Dwane's ability to adapt and lead us through a challenging but very exciting year of growth and development has further established his place as one of the most highly respected coaches in the NBA," Gores said in a statement released Wednesday. "He is fully committed to the restoration of the Pistons where his competitiveness, teaching ability and developmental acumen can be seen in the growth of our young players."
One of the promising players of the Pistons' rebuild is rookie Saddiq Bey, who scored 21 points against Minnesota. But a season-high 28 turnovers led to 34 Wolves points.
Detroit had nine players available.
"You can't win a basketball game when you turn the ball over 28 times," Bey said. "It doesn't matter what else you are doing, that's going to cost you the game."
For the Nuggets, Monte Morris sat out against Minnesota one game after returning from a 12-game absence due to a right hamstring strain. Michael Porter Jr. was also given the night off. Will Barton (right hamstring strain) and PJ Dozier (right adductor strain) remain out and Malone doesn't expect them back before the end of the season.
Detroit will be shorthanded again as Wayne Ellington (bilateral calf strain), Jerami Grant (right knee soreness), Frank Jackson (right ankle sprain), Cory Joseph (left ankle soreness), Rodney McGruder (right elbow sprain), Dennis Smith Jr. (left knee soreness), Mason Plumlee (rest) and Isaiah Stewart (personal reasons) are out. Hamidou Diallo is listed as questionable due to health and safety protocols.
--Field Level Media
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