DENVER -- Forward Paul Pierce scored 18 points before sitting out the entire fourth quarter, and the Brooklyn Nets raced out to a big lead early and never relented in a 112-89 win over the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night.

Guard Marcus Thornton scored 10 points in his second game since joining Brooklyn at the trade deadline last week.

The Nets played well since the beginning of 2014. They were 11 games under .500 when the year started but a 17-8 run has them 27-29 and within reach of Toronto for first place in the Atlantic Division.

Injuries hurt them early in the season, which included a 24-point loss to Denver in Brooklyn on Dec. 3. Forward Andrei Kirilenko as well as Pierce and guard Deron Williams missed that game.

Thursday, they all played, and they embarrassed the now-woeful Nuggets despite solid games from forward Kenneth Faried and guard Randy Foye. Faried had 14 points and eight rebounds and Foye had 15 points.

Their efforts weren't nearly enough to overcome Denver's worst period of the season. The Nuggets were just 3-for-18 from the field in the first quarter and had as many points as turnovers -- eight.

It was the lowest-scoring quarter of the season for Denver and was blown out on national TV for the second time in a week. Chicago beat the Nuggets by 28 last Friday.

Denver missed layups and dunks in its worst quarter in years. The franchise low is three points, set Nov. 27, 2002, at San Antonio.

The Nets, who were on the business end of a 44-point blowout in Portland on Wednesday, took advantage of Denver's poor start. They led 29-8 after the first and 49-18 midway through the second.

The Nuggets went on an 11-2 run to get within 22 points before halftime, but Brooklyn outscored them 30-20 in the third to squelch any comeback.

The Nets led by as many as 38 in the second half in handing Denver its ninth loss in 10 games.

The packed Pepsi Center had a mass exodus late in the third quarter, but the fans that stuck around gave Nets center Jason Collins a warm welcome when he entered the game with 8:02 remaining.

Collins, who signed a 10-day contract with Brooklyn on Monday, is the first openly gay player to compete in the NBA.

NOTES: Nuggets F Wilson Chandler did not dress for Thursday's game because of a right knee injury. Chandler practiced Wednesday but the knee acted up at Thursday's shootaround. Chandler's absence, along with injuries to F Darrell Arthur (left hip strain) and G Ty Lawson (fractured rib), left Denver with nine available players for Thursday. ... Nets C Jason Collins said he plans on meeting with the parents of Matthew Shepard after the game. Shepard was killed in Wyoming in 1998 in an anti-gay attack, and he is one of the reasons why Collins, the first openly gay man to play in the NBA, wears No. 98. ... The Nuggets have now used 19 different starting lineups this season and the Nets have used 20. Brooklyn is fourth in the league in that category.