AUBURN HILLS, Mich — Afterward, there was more relief than joy. Jusuf Nurkic has been frustrated that he hasn’t played more of late. Wednesday night, he took those frustrations out on the Detroit Pistons.
The 7-foot center put his best game of the season on the court at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Nurkic finished with season highs in points (16) and rebounds (11). He added a blocked shot. Most important, those points, rebounds and the blocked shot were all necessary for the Nuggets to close out the game with a much-needed victory.
“He was very aggressive, and he finished tonight,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “He was 8-of-12 from the field. He’s a physical young man, very strong, does not shy away from contact.
Nurkic had eight points and six rebounds in the fourth quarter alone.
“I’m happy for him,” Malone said. “It hasn’t been easy for Nurk. He had a great rookie season, but coming back from injury and then you have all of these other young bigs playing well … But I give him credit, because he’s come and worked very hard.”
Nurkic had been on a playing-time restriction since he made his season debut coming off offseason knee surgery in January. The restriction is over. He played a season-high 24 minutes against the Pistons.
“I want to be aggressive every game,” Nurkic said. “Right now, I feel more part of the team.”
Dunk routine TBD. As of Wednesday, before the Nuggets-Pistons game, high-flying guard Will Barton was still preparing for a regular-season game, not for the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, which takes place Saturday night. So work on his routine begins Thursday.
“Right now we’re just taking it one day at a time,” Barton said, smiling.