DETROIT — Injuries finally took their toll.

Down three starters, the Nuggets saw their six-game winning streak snapped Monday night as the Detroit Pistons played to their strengths and pounded them 129-103. Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin were relentless in the paint and the Nuggets had few answers, falling to 37-16.

Paul Millsap was out with an ankle injury, Gary Harris missed his third game in a row with a strained groin and Jamal Murray rested with a sore ankle for the sixth consecutive game. The story of the Nuggets' season has been their resiliency, but this time the loss of those three was too much to overcome.

"Regardless of how many bodies we had available, we didn't defend the whole night. Andre Drummond dominated us," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said of the Pistons' center, who scored 27 points and had 12 rebounds. "Healthy bodies, no healthy bodies, we got our butts kicked tonight."

Monte Morris, who grew up in Flint, Mich., played well in front a friendly crowd, finishing with 18 points on 8-for-13 shooting from the field. All-star Nikola Jokic failed to gain any sort of foothold against the Pistons' bruising frontcourt and had just 16 points and three rebounds.

Drummond and Griffin combined for 44 points and 19 boards as the game ballooned out of hand in the second half.


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"We did not meet the challenge of finding (Drummond), hitting him early and keeping him off the glass," Malone said. "When the shot is taken, you can't ball watch, you have to hit. While we're ball watching, he's carving out space underneath."

Any hope of a comeback was all but extinguished in the third quarter as the Pistons responded to each Denver mini-run. Drummond pounded the Nuggets in the paint with 14 points and eight rebounds in the quarter, including five on the offensive end. The beleaguered Nuggets were outrebounded 53-32 and were hammered 24-9 on second-chance points.

Not that the Nuggets needed a reminder how valuable their backup point guard was before Thursday's trade deadline, but Morris offered yet another example in his fourth start in a row. Since he took over in New Orleans last week, he has averaged 18.3 points on 61 percent shooting, plus 8.3 assists and 6.7 rebounds.

"I love the style he uses, for a young kid to be putting up the numbers he's putting up, almost on a historical-type level," said Malone, referring to his assist/turnover ratio that ranks second in the NBA. "He did the same thing at Iowa State, so it can't be too surprising to anybody who knows Monte's background. He takes care of it, he values it, and that, as a coach, that's what you want in a point guard. He's a throwback. There's not many true point guards left in this league, and Monte Morris is definitely one of them."

The Nuggets’ Monte Morris drives to the basket past the Clippers’ Blake Griffin during the first half of Monday’s game at Little Caesars
The Nuggets' Monte Morris drives to the basket past the Clippers' Blake Griffin during the first half of Monday's game at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. (Gregory Shamus / Getty Images)

The Nuggets had a rare off day Sunday after their win at Minnesota on Saturday and used it to travel to Flint, about an hour's drive from Detroit, to pass out water and sign autographs.

"You could see all the people that showed up just hoping to see Monte, talk to him and how much pride they're taking in Monte's success at the NBA level," Malone said. "It's really cool to see Will Barton, Mason Plumlee, myself, some of the coaches, some of our support staff, all go up to Flint and help to hand out some water and just show Monte as much love and respect that he deserves."

Detroit busted out for a 68-55 halftime lead after outscoring Denver 34-19 in the second quarter. Griffin and Drummond were a load down low, where the Nuggets missed Millsap's interior presence, and the rest of the Pistons found their rhythm from the 3-point line.

Jokic and Morris each played well over the first two quarters with a combined 25 points, while the rest of the overburdened offense struggled.