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DENVER – Kenneth Faried scored 22 points and had 17 rebounds and the Denver Nuggets opened the season Wednesday night with an 89-79 win over Detroit, spoiling the debut of Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy.
Aaron Afflalo, in his second tour with Denver after being acquired in an offseason trade with Orlando, had 15 points. Timofey Mozgov added 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Nuggets, coming off a 36-46 campaign marked by losses of key players to injuries, including Danilo Gallinari, JaVale McGee, J.J. Hickson and Nate Robinson, though all four are healthy now.
Josh Smith, Detroit's leading scorer last season, had 25 points to lead the Pistons. D.J. Augustin added 15 points.
The Pistons managed only one basket in the last three minutes. Afflalo hit consecutive baskets, including a 3-pointer, as part of a 9-0 third-quarter burst that put Denver in front 64-59. But the Pistons responded with a layup by Jonas Jerebko and a pair of free throws by D.J. Augustin and trailed 65-63 going into the fourth quarter.
Detroit went in front 68-67 on a hook shot by Jerebko before Randy Foye and Alonzo Gee each hit 3-pointers on successive Denver possessions as the Nuggets regained the lead midway through the final period.
The Pistons pulled to within 79-77 on Augustin's 5-foot floater. Denver, though, pulled away with eight straight points in the closing minutes, including a tip-in by Mozgov. The Pistons managed only one basket in the last three minutes. Lawson connected on a 17-foot step-back jumper with 6.5 seconds left in the second quarter, allowing the Nuggets to go in front 42-40 at halftime.
Neither team led by more than six points in the first half, and each squad scored 19 points in the second quarter.
Pistons: Rookie guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who missed his final 18 games at Colorado last season because of a knee injury before being drafted by the Pistons, had an assist in limited action in his return to Colorado. ... Greg Monroe served the first of a two-game suspension stemming from an arrest last February on a DUI allegation.
Nuggets: Danilo Gallinari, Nate Robinson and JaVale McGee, all coming off major injuries, will be eased back into action. Coach Brian Shaw said before the game that they'll be limited to about 20 minutes of playing time early on in the season. ... J.J. Hickson served the first of a five-game suspension related to a violation of the NBA's anti-drug program.
Chauncey Billups, who led the Pistons to a title and also starred for the Nuggets during a standout 17-year NBA career before retiring in the offseason, watched the game from a courtside seat.
The Nuggets head to Oklahoma City, where they went 0-2 last season, to play the Thunder on Saturday night.
The Pistons continue their season opening road trip on Thursday night at Minnesota.