DENVER — Guard Aaron Brooks was expecting to come off the bench as usual, but minutes before the starting lineups were announced, the Denver Nuggets guard found out his name would be called.
Turns out it was called a lot Wednesday night.
Brooks scored a season-high 27 points and dished out a career-high 17 assists, and the Denver Nuggets overcame the absence of two starters to beat the struggling Detroit Pistons 118-109.
Guard Randy Foye scored 22 for the Nuggets, who won four of their last five.
Brooks was thrust into the starting lineup when starting point guard Ty Lawson was scratched because of a sinus infection. After a serviceable first half, he had 17 points and 11 assists in the second while logging nearly 47 minutes of court time.
It was the most minutes he has played this season, and it came as a surprise — even to him.
“Ty walked off the court (after warmups) and sat down said, ‘I’m not going.’ I thought he was joking,” Brooks said. “I was like, ‘Quit playing around. Get back out there.’ Everybody contributed and it was a team victory.”
The Pistons, in a months-long spiral, came into Denver after four days off, but it did not help change their fortunes. Wednesday’s loss made it 13 in 16 games and extended their road losing streak to 11 games.
Center Greg Monroe had 22 points and guard Rodney Stuckey added 18 for Detroit, which has not won away from home since beating Washington on Jan. 18.
Wednesday, they were victimized by a hot Denver backcourt.
“Aaron Brooks was able to get in the lane and Randy Foye just caught fire from 3,” Monroe said. “Anytime you have a backcourt that one’s getting to the rim and the other is knocking down 3s is going to be tough on any night.”
The game featured two ailing teams. Detroit center Andre Drummond was out with a neck injury while the Nuggets were missing two of their best players. In addition to Lawson, forward Wilson Chandler (hip) was out, leaving Denver looking like a roster that lost eight of nine last month.
The Nuggets played like it early. It took nearly three minutes for them to score their first points of the game, and after taking a lead in the final seconds of the first quarter, they trailed for the next 24 minutes.
Detroit, behind 14 first-half points by Stuckey, who made his first start of the season, led by as many as 11. It carried over into the third quarter before Denver rallied.
“It took us a while to get up to speed,” Brooks said.
Detroit’s lead was five when forward Josh Smith, the team’s leading scorer, picked up a technical when he mixed it up with Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried. Faried was also slapped with a technical.
“They were talking. It was just some friendly trash talk,” Monroe said. “It wasn’t anything malicious.”
Smith kept talking before the ball was inbounded and picked up a second technical and was ejected with 6:53 left in the period.
“He was talking but the ref told him to stop before, he kept talking, got another tech. That was a momentum change when that happened,” Monroe said. “Losing him for the rest of the game obviously puts us at a disadvantage in any game, at any point we lose Josh.”
Foye scored eight of his 12 third-quarter points over the rest of the period, including a steal and layup that gave Denver an 85-84 lead heading into the fourth.
“When you sit there and watch guys marking it and shooting it and feeling pretty good, you’ve got to rush them, you’ve got to get up in them,” Pistons coach John Loyer said. “We kind of watched a few guys.”
Brooks hit two shots and fed forward J.J. Hickson for a dunk as the Nuggets took a 104-91 lead midway through the period.
“I’m just starting to learn the offense and finding the guys in the right places,” Brooks said. “I’m happy to get my first win as a starter.”
Forward Charlie Villanueva scored 11 of his 13 points in the fourth to get the Pistons to within four in the final minute but Denver held on.
NOTES: Pistons C Andre Drummond was out with neck injury suffered in Detroit’s last game, Saturday against Indiana. … Nuggets F Wilson Chandler had an injection in his sore left hip and did not dress. He is questionable for Friday’s game at Dallas. … Pistons G Chauncey Billups, a Denver native and former Nuggets player, received a warm ovation when he was shown on Detroit’s bench in a suit. Billups has played just 19 games this year and is out after having surgery on his left knee.
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