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Pistons 102, Nuggets 82

March 14, 1997

DENVER (AP) _ The Detroit Pistons fulfilled a promise they made to themselves at the start of the season.

The Pistons promised to be better than a year ago. And by beating the Denver Nuggets 102-82 Thursday night, they assured themselves of being no worse than a year ago.

Grant Hill had 28 points and 14 rebounds and Otis Thorpe added 22 points as Detroit matched its victory total of last season. Joe Dumars added 19 points for the Pistons, who are 46-17 after finishing 46-36 last year and won their 46th game on the final day of the regular season.

``It was big for us tonight to get to a win total we had all last year and with 19 games left to improve on it,″ Detroit coach Doug Collins said. ``We played like it meant something. We can’t crank our intensity level any higher than it was tonight.″

Detroit completed its five-game Western Conference road trip at 3-2 and won for only the fifth time in 10 games.

``It was important to get that out of the way,″ Thorpe said. ``Now we can move on and move past that. Sometimes that can add more pressure than is necessary.″

LaPhonso Ellis scored 28 for Denver, which lost its fourth straight and its ninth in the last 10. The Pistons have held opponents under 100 points in 57 of 63 games.

``What happened to us? Grant Hill, Otis Thorpe and Joe Dumars,″ Denver coach Dick Motta said. ``That’s what happened to us.″

The Nuggets trailed 55-54 with 7:55 left in the third quarter, but hit on only three of eight shots and turned the ball over five times the remainder of the quarter. Thorpe and Dumars scored eight points each as the Pistons closed the quarter with a 17-7 run.

Hill hit his first three shots and Thorpe connected on his first two in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter. Denver missed all three of its shots and turned the ball over once in that stretch to fall behind 82-61.

Brooks Thompson made successive 3-pointers to draw to 82-69. Dumars ended that mini run with a 15-foot jumper and Hill and Thorpe scored two points each before leaving the game with 4:23 left and Detroit holding a 93-70 lead.

Ellis gave Denver its last lead of the game, 7-6, on a 3-pointer with 7:25 left in the first quarter. Hill scored on a driving layup to give the Pistons the lead back. He had 10 points in the quarter as Detroit led 30-22.

``I don’t think we played that poorly,″ Thompson said. ``They picked us apart with the pick and roll with Dumas and Hill and had that run at the end of the third quarter.″

Notes: The Nuggets need to win seven of their last nine games at McNichols Arena to match the worst home record franchise history, 17-24, in 1990-91. ... Detroit is 15-6 with a starting lineup of Hill, Thorpe, Theo Ratliff, Dumars and Lindsey Hunter. ... Thorpe and LaPhonso Ellis had to be separated after Thorpe sent Ellis to the deck with 7:57 left in the fourth quarter. ... Kenny Smith is five assists short of 4,000 for his career. ... Detroit has held opponents to 20 or fewer points in 100 of 252 quarters.

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