Den­ver squan­ders late op­por­tu­ni­ties

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Christo­pher Dempsey

in­di­anapo­lis » Af­ter di­gest­ing a dis­jointed last few min­utes, Nuggets coach Michael Malone pointed the fin­ger at him­self. The Nuggets’ lack of ex­e­cu­tion late in a 109-104 over­time loss to In­di­ana on Satur­day night ate at him.

“A team’s abil­ity to ex­e­cute late un­der pres­sure starts with me as head coach,” Malone said. “I thought our ex­e­cu­tion was poor, did not get clean looks, did not run the right sets. We ran the wrong plays com­ing out of the hud­dle a few times.”

The fi­nal mo­ments fea­tured th­ese plays:

• Danilo Gal­li­nari step­ping out of bounds, which was more un­lucky than un­pre­pared, with 28 sec­onds left in over­time and the Nuggets down by one point.

• Gary Har­ris com­mit­ting his sixth foul when the Nuggets were try­ing to get the ball back in­stead of some­one else tak­ing the foul the Nuggets had to give.

• The Nuggets al­low­ing Pac­ers spark­plug Monta El­lis space to op­er­ate on the game-clinch­ing play. He drove the lane, made a layup and got a foul on the play. His free throw with 20.4 sec­onds left put the Pac­ers up by four points.

• The Nuggets’ in­abil­ity to even get an at­tempt at the rim in those fi­nal 20 sec­onds.

“They­were bet­ter than us fin- ish­ing the game,” Gal­li­nari said. “I thought it was a pretty good game through­out. They were just bet­ter us fin­ish­ing up the game.”

A win would have ce­mented the Nuggets’ first win­ning road trip of the sea­son, but that slipped away in the end. The Nuggets shot just 9-of-24 from the field, and com­mit­ted nine turnovers, in the fourth quar­ter and over­time com­bined.

“It’s tough,” guard Gary Har­ris said. “It was a winnable game.”

El­lis made it tough on the Nuggets all night long.

El­lis was stel­lar, scor­ing a sea­son-high 32 points, and adding a sea­son-high nine re­bounds and six as­sists. The Nuggets strug­gled to guard him. Why? Noth­ing spe­cial. “He’s a good player,” Malone said.

In the first half, El­lis got the Pac­ers started off on the right foot, bounc­ing all around the court and scor­ing from ev­ery­where. El­lis had 13 points in the first quar­ter alone, but his im­pact went be­yond just putting the bas­ket­ball in the hoop. El­lis re­bounded and as­sisted, and con­trolled nearly ev­ery­thing hap­pen­ing. With him lead­ing, the Pac­ers soared.

But the Nuggets ral­lied in the se­cond half, buoyed by a big third quar­ter in which they outscored the Pac­ers 32-21. They took a three-point lead into the fourth, and that’s when the see­saw­ing be­gan. The lead was yanked back and forth from the Nuggets to the Pac­ers and back to the Nuggets. El­lis missed a jump shot at the buzzer in regulation to send the game to over­time.

Den­ver was led by Gal­li­nari’s 23 points. Har­ris added 18.

“We have to have greater poise un­der pres­sure,” Malone said. “We­have tobe able to han­dle ad­ver­sity.”

Nuggets point guard Jameer Nelson drives against In­di­ana Pac­ers for­ward Solomon Hill on Satur­day. Nelson had three as­sists in 16 min­utes off the bench. Doug McSchooler, The As­so­ci­ated Press

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