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Howard, Jokic lead Nuggets past Pistons 104-91

Markus Howard scored a career-high 20 points, Nikola Jokic had a triple-double and the Denver Nuggets moved closer to a higher playoff seed with a 104-91 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.

Jokic had 20 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists for Denver (47-24). The Nuggets improved to 3-0 on a four-game road trip that finishes the regular season.

The Pistons (20-51) lost for the 11th time in 13 games. Hamadou Diallo led the Pistons with 18 points, Tyler Cook scored 17 and Deividas Sirvydis added a career-high 16. The Pistons only dressed eight players, with the oldest being 25-year-old Jahlil Okafor.

Detroit Pistons guard Saben Lee (38) loses control of the ball as Denver Nuggets guard Markus Howard (00) defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, May 14, 2021, in Detroit. (AP PhotoCarlos Osorio)

The first half turned into an unexpected scoring duel between Sirvydis and Howard. The rookies each had a career-high 16 points in the half, with Jokic adding 13 points, nine rebounds and nine assists as Denver took a 57-53 lead.

Jokic finished off the triple-double early in the third quarter, and he and Howard both finished the period with 20 points as the Nuggets pulled out to an 87-74 lead.

Denver's reserves didn't have any trouble finishing off the game, leading by as many as 19.

Detroit Pistons guard Saben Lee (38) passes as Denver Nuggets center JaVale McGee, left, defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, May 14, 2021, in Detroit. (AP PhotoCarlos Osorio)

TIP INS

Nuggets: Coach Michael Malone rested his starters for most of the second half. Howard led the Nuggets with 32 minutes and Jokic didn't play in the fourth quarter.

Pistons: Sirvydis didn't score in the second half, leaving the game with a leg injury. That left the Pistons with seven healthy players for the fourth quarter. Sirvydis went 4 of 7 on 3-pointers, while the rest of the team went 2-30.

Detroit Pistons forward Saddiq Bey (41) loses control of the ball as Denver Nuggets center Bol Bol (10) defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, May 14, 2021, in Detroit. (AP PhotoCarlos Osorio)

UP NEXT

Nuggets: Visit the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday to finish the regular season.

Pistons: Host the Miami Heat on Sunday to finish the season.

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Denver Nuggets center JaVale McGee (34) makes a layup as Detroit Pistons center Jahlil Okafor defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, May 14, 2021, in Detroit. (AP PhotoCarlos Osorio)

Denver Nuggets guard Markus Howard (00) makes a layup next to Detroit Pistons forward Tyler Cook (25) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, May 14, 2021, in Detroit. (AP PhotoCarlos Osorio)

Denver Nuggets guard Shaquille Harrison (3) is defended by Detroit Pistons guard Deividas Sirvydis (91) and guard Saben Lee during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, May 14, 2021, in Detroit. (AP PhotoCarlos Osorio)

Detroit Pistons forward Saddiq Bey (41) is defended by Denver Nuggets forward JaMychal Green during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, May 14, 2021, in Detroit. (AP PhotoCarlos Osorio)

Detroit Pistons center Jahlil Okafor (13) is fouled by Denver Nuggets center JaVale McGee (34) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, May 14, 2021, in Detroit. (AP PhotoCarlos Osorio)

Detroit Pistons head coach Dwane Casey on the sideline during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets, Friday, May 14, 2021, in Detroit. (AP PhotoCarlos Osorio)