Denver picks up pace to win
NUGGETS 129, PACERS 126
Their homestand goals still firmly attainable, the Nuggets went about the work of putting Friday’s disappointment behind them and focusing on the Indiana Pacers. And they got back on track. Their defense took the night off, but their offense didn’t.
And, for that matter, neither did grit.
The Nuggets scored a seasonhigh 45 points in the fourth quarter and won a shootout Sunday night at the Pepsi Center, 129-126 over the Pacers.
“Everybody contributed, and obviously I wasn’t happy with the defense. But that was a heck of a win for us,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “At the end of the day, not the prettiest win but we’ll take it.”
The victory improved the Nuggets to 3-1 on this homestand, the only loss to Miami on Friday. They’ve won four of their last six.
Beating the Pacers meant overcoming turnovers and a hotshooting Indiana team.
And though the Nuggets were shaky on defense all game long, they got the one stop that mattered most — an Emmanuel Mudiay block on Paul George’s lastsecond 3-point attempt.
“I was not worried at all,” Mudiay said. “I knew we were going to come back in the second half.” It was a back-and-forth affair. Indiana rained down jumpers from all angles in the first half.
Forty-six of Indiana’s 66 points came on jumpers as the Nuggets weren’t able to contest shots well. Monta Ellis was one of Denver’s biggest problems.
He hit five of his seven jump shots, two from 3-point range, and scored 15 first-half points.
Turnovers put the Nuggets in bad situations.
The Pacers are the NBA’s best team at converting turnovers into points, and they held true to that form, forcing 10 Nuggets turnovers and cashing in those for 18 points in the first half.
Wild swings defined the third quarter. The Nuggets started on a 26-12 tear to take a two-point lead.
The Pacers answered with an 11-2 run to snatch the lead back and push it to seven points. That became a 13-4 run to end the quarter.
Defending was an issue throughout for the Nuggets.
The Pacers’ shooting success never dipped below 60 percent at any point in the first three quarters.
But the Nuggets figured things out in the fourth.
“We were just making shots,” guard Randy Foye said. “We usually get those shots, we just don’t make them. But I think today we knocked those shots down. It was a tale of two halves; the first half was theirs and the second half was ours.”
Danilo Gallinari scored 23 points before fouling out late in the fourth. With Gallinari on the bench, other players came through. Will Barton hit a 3-pointer. Mudiay’s monster dunk with 1:21 tied the game at 121. But George answered to give the Pacers the lead. A goaltending call on a Barton floater tied the game at 123.
The Nuggets got a stop and then Foye knocked down a 3point shot with 20.9 seconds remaining, giving the Nuggets a 126-123 lead.
Barton scored 15 of his 21 points in the fourth and the Nuggets sizzled, making 15-of-22 in the final frame.
“I felt like I let the team down in the first half,” Barton said. “Kenneth (Faried) and Gary (Harris) and (Darrell Arthur) were telling me let’s go, take over the game and be yourself. So with support like that from my teammates I felt like I owed them.”
Indiana Pacers forward Paul George fouls Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari during the first half of Sunday’s game at the Pepsi Center.