Nikola Jokic and Michael Malone were ejected in the Nuggets’ game against the Pistons

Nikola Jokic and Michael Malone were ejected in the Nuggets’ game against the Pistons

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, 15, walks to the locker room after his second technical foul during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, Monday, Nov. 20, 2023, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

DETROIT — Instead of gradually drawing five fouls to keep himself mostly on the sidelines, Nikola Jokic sped up the process this time.

In the second Rust Belt game of a back-to-back, in which frustration with officiating simmered and simmered to a boil, Jokic followed Nuggets coach Michael Malone into the tunnel for nearly a quarter-hour after Malone was ejected for arguing calls early in Denver’s 107-103 win over Pistons.

The Nuggets (10-4) escaped a hectic finish thanks to a tight interior defense, snapping a four-game losing streak and extending Detroit’s slide to 12 games. Reggie Jackson led a team sans Jokic with 21 points and six assists and no turnovers in a chaotic and dramatic game.

“Personality wins,” Malone said. “That’s what I’d say. Personality wins.”

Jackson converted a floater from the baseline with a foul to tie the Pistons at 97, give the Nuggets a 103-101 lead with a layup, then dished an assist to Aaron Gordon that turned into a go-ahead and one-and-one with 1:33 remaining. . Denver never relinquished that lead. The only time Jackson faltered, taking a layup from Cade Cunningham in the final 20 seconds for a three-point lead, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope cycled the assist defense to force a loose layup. Caldwell-Pope also scored 20 points.

“He goes up, uses the vertical base, and defends without mistakes,” Malone said. “… That was a huge play. That’s what makes KCP a great defender.”

Jokic’s ejection was for his second technical foul of the night at 1:21 before halftime. That came a day after he played a season-low 27 minutes in foul trouble in Cleveland.

He exuded attitude from the opening tip Monday, earning his first technical within five minutes for arguing a lane violation call. When Jokic and Marvin Bagley III collided with the ball during the Nuggets’ possession moments later, Jokic appeared to sarcastically applaud the officials for calling the foul on Bagley instead of him.

By the end of the first half, Jokic was nervous enough to stop dribbling on a live ball play while trying to back away from Bagley. He let the ball bounce, lethargic, while the nearest official gave his trademark puzzled arms gesture.

No contact. Live ball.

Jokic regained possession and then failed when Isaiah Stewart spun him around to help Bagley clear the ball. This also did not result in any unpleasant invitation. The ball slowly rolled out of bounds for the Nuggets side. But instead of moving forward, Jokic continued to confront referee Trey Maddox, while substitute coach David Adelman tried to intervene between them. Maddox gave Jokic another technical, and Jokic exited a game that was 56-55 Nuggets at halftime.

“He doesn’t need an apology. They’re disgracing him, they’re not going by the book,” Gordon said. “They’re putting their hands on him. They push him. It’s wrong. When someone has their back to the basket, you can’t put your hands on them, and they keep putting their hands on them. So it is wrong. “I can understand his frustration.”

Denver Nuggets guard Reggie Jackson (7) drives past Detroit Pistons forward Osar Thompson during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Nov. 20, 2023, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Jackson, a former Piston player, hit a powerful layup to give Denver that slim lead. He was greeted with moderate booing before the game when he was introduced, but Jokic received mostly applause from Detroit fans during starting lineup introductions. With the two-time MVP out, local Pistons radio expressed their displeasure with the officiating crew: “Let me tell you this, these fans didn’t come here to see Curtis Blair or Trey Maddox or Andy Nagy, whoever they are.”

Jackson also scored 18 points against his last team, the Clippers, six days ago. Is there something about playing with his former teams?

He said: “Yes.” “I always love my old teams. I always appreciate the time I spent there. But you have to try to show up when you play your old teams.

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