AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- The Detroit Pistons knew they were going to have to earn all their points against the Denver Nuggets. They didn't expect it to be this tough.
Cliff Robinson scored 17 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter
to help Detroit beat Denver 74-53 on Saturday night after the teams
combined for the lowest-scoring first half in NBA history.
"There are going to be games like this against a team like Denver -- they play hard and they junk the game up,'' Robinson said. "We just stayed in our game plan and I was able to get them off-balance a little in the fourth. Once that happened, it was all over.''
Denver led 29-28 at halftime, and the 57 combined points broke a 47-year-old record by one point. The Nuggets shot 37.5 percent for the half and turned the ball over eight times, while the Pistons hit 29 percent of their shots and had 11 turnovers.
"We knew that this was the type of game where both teams were going to have to work hard for points,'' Pistons coach Rick Carlisle said. "Denver has a sound, solid defensive team, and we knew that we would have to defend to have any kind of chance.''
Richard Hamilton added 15 and Corliss Williamson 12 for Detroit, which set a franchise mark for fewest points allowed. It was also the combined lowest-scoring game in Pistons history.
"When you go out and play hard, good things are going to happen,'' said Ben Wallace, who finished with two points and 13 rebounds. "Cliff had a huge night and we worked hard. I'll take it.''
Juwan Howard scored 12 points to lead the Nuggets, who broke their team record for fewest points in a game by eight. Denver shot just 32.8 percent for the game and had 22 turnovers. Its 21 field goals missed the league record by four, and the team record by one.
"It was a tough, physical game and we just fell apart -- we
cracked,'' Denver coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "That's a sign of
immaturity. I know we are young, but we have to grow up fast.''
Neither offense picked up in the third quarter until the Pistons scored the final eight points to take a 46-41 advantage with 12 minutes to go. Detroit outscored Denver 18-12 in the period, led by nine from Hamilton.
Detroit started the fourth with a 7-2 run, extending its lead to 53-43 with 7:10 to play. Denver turned the ball over four times in the first 5 minutes of the fourth.
Robinson scored 11 points in the first 7:04 of the period, helping Detroit pull away to an insurmountable 62-47 lead. Robinson scored more points in the fourth quarter than the Nuggets scored in any quarter.
"Corliss and Rip got us going a little bit late in the third period, and then on a hunch, I went to Cliff in the fourth,'' Carlisle said. "Without him on both ends of the floor, we probably don't win this game. He's been an All-Star and he's been the Sixth Man of the Year, and he's going to be a candidate for Sixth Man again this season.''
After their 29 points in the record-setting first half, the
Nuggets scored 24 in the second half.
"We're just shooting ourselves in the foot when it comes to scoring points,'' Mark Blount said. "It was kind of funny at first, but now that the L's are piling up, it isn't funny anymore. We've got to be more disciplined and get in the right spot. You can't have guys out there dancing around while the shot clock's running down.''
The previous record of 58 points in a first half was set by Syracuse and Fort Wayne in Buffalo on Jan. 25, 1955, and was tied by the Mavericks and Pacers on Feb. 13, 1998. ... Neither team
reached 20 points until after the midway point of the second quarter, and the Pistons were the first to reach 50 with 8:23 left in the fourth. ... The Pistons and Nuggets also played in the highest-scoring game in league history, a 186-184 triple-overtime win for Detroit in Denver on Dec. 13, 1983. ... Denver scored 61 points in San Antonio on March 13, 1999, while the Pistons allowed 61 to the Knicks on April 12, 1992. ... Denver only scored 63 in a 26-point home loss to Detroit on Nov. 7.