DENVER (AP) — J.R. Smith finally got the message.
“Everybody’s been telling me to catch and shoot and stop trying to make plays off the dribble,” Smith said. “The last month and a half, two months, I’ve been passing up a lot of open 3s to get to the basket. Everybody wants me to catch and shoot, so that’s what I did tonight.”
Smith had a season-high 31 points, connecting on seven of his nine 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to help the Denver Nuggets pull away for a 131-101 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Saturday night.
Nene added 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Ty Lawson had 15 points and 11 assists for the Nuggets, 7-2 since the blockbuster trade that sent Carmelo Anthony to New York on Feb. 22.
“They shoot the ball real well and obviously they’ve been putting up a lot of points since the trade, making you play their style,” Detroit’s Tayshaun Prince said about the Nuggets, the highest-scoring team in the NBA. “You could tell by the halftime score (66-60) we were playing their style. We’re not the type of team that can keep up scoring with teams like this.”
Chris Wilcox led Detroit with 21 points. Richard Hamilton added 15 points and Ben Gordon 13.
The Pistons hung with the Nuggets for much of the game and tied it at 72 on Greg Monroe’s putback with 6:46 left in the third.
But the Nuggets countered with a tear, closing the period with a 21-2 run to take a 93-74 advantage.
Raymond Felton hit two 3-pointers during the surge and Lawson and Smith also connected from long range. The Nuggets punctuated the run with Felton’s alley-oop setting up a thundering dunk by Kenyon Martin.
The Pistons never threatened after that. They concluded their three-game trip without a win and lost for the 11th time in their last 14 games.
“We wore them down,” Denver coach George Karl said.
And Smith wore them out, especially in the fourth quarter, when he poured in 21 points.
“Just playing basketball like we all grew up playing,” Smith said. “Kind of like organized pickup. You’re out there running and playing.”
Prince questioned the Pistons’ defensive intensity in the final period after the Nuggets’ broke the game open with their late third-quarter surge. The game’s 30-point margin represented the Pistons’ biggest loss of the season.
“When a guy is on fire like that, you just can’t to let him shoot the ball like that,” Prince said. “I mean when is enough enough? You go out there and play like that, and let them pretty much put the embarrassment quotation on it.”
NOTES: The Nuggets were without Danilo Gallinari (toe), who missed a sixth game since breaking his left big toe at Portland on Feb. 25, and Arron Afflalo, who missed a second consecutive game since straining his left hamstring against the Los Angeles Clippers. … Denver completed a two-game sweep of the season series with Detroit for the first time since 1993-94. Coming in, Detroit had won seven of the previous nine against the Nuggets. … The Pistons are 7-27 on the road this season. … Smith’s previous season high was 30 on Nov. 28 against Phoenix.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)