Nuggets main­tain nice pace in vic­tory

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Paul Shep­herd

in­di­anapo­lis» If only the Nuggets could play the In­di­ana Pac­ers each game, they’d be one of the best teams in the West.

Den­ver put up an im­pres­sive of­fen­sive per­for­mance against In­di­ana for the sec­ond time this sea­son, this one a 125-117 win Fri­day on the Pac­ers’ home court at Bankers Life Field­house. Since 2004, the Nuggets are 20-4 against In­di­ana.

Fri­day’s win was per­haps one of the big­gest in the se­ries for Den­ver (35-37), which is bat­tling Port­land for the fi­nal play­off spot in the Western Con­fer­ence. The Nuggets hold a 1½ game lead over the Blaz­ers, who were idle Fri­day. The teams meet Tues­day in Port­land.

The Pac­ers, who never led and trailed by as many as 23, had no an­swer for The Joker. Nuggets sec­ond-year big man, Nikola Jo­kic had game-highs with 30 points and 17 re­bounds, to go with five as­sists. No Nuggets player has pro­duced a stat line sur­pass­ing those com­bined num­bers in 33 years.

“It’s al­most like you want to see what he does next,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone. “The guy is just a treat to watch and fun to play with. The scary thing is he’s only go­ing to get bet­ter. For him to be play­ing at such a high level is a credit to him and his work ethic. This is a big win for us.”

Jo­kic was one of five Den­ver play­ers in dou­ble fig­ures. Wil­son Chan­dler added 24 points. Gal­li­nari (17-of-18 from the foul line) added 21 in his first game back af­ter miss­ing the pre­vi­ous four with a bruised

knee bone. Gary Har­ris and Will Bar­ton each scored 10.

“We have so many good of­fen­sive play­ers,” Jo­kic said. “I just want to do what­ever I need to do to win the game — get re­bounds, set­ting screens, as­sists, scor­ing, what­ever.”

Den­ver looked like it would cruise to the win af­ter Ma­son Plum­lee’s two-handed stuff opened a 10481 lead with 9:02 left, but as per NBA cus­tom, the Pac­ers made a run.

Paul Ge­orge, who scored 27 to lead the Pac­ers, scored 16 in the quar­ter as In­di­ana pulled within five at 113-108 with 1:40 left, but Jo­kic buried a 3-pointer on the en­su­ing pos­ses­sion, the Pac­ers turned it over, Jo­kic scored on a hook shot and the Nuggets hit enough free throws down the stretch to put the nail in the cof­fin.

“We have to un­der­stand when we have a lead, de­fense is key and you can’t give up eight threes in the fourth quar­ter,” Malone said. “Ev­ery game is a play­off game for us.”

Den­ver fin­ished a blis­ter­ing 40of-43 (93 per­cent) from the foul line com­pared with the Pac­ers’ 8-of-11.

Just as they did in their blowout win over Cleve­land on Wed­nes­day, the Nuggets were hot early. The NBA’s third high­est-scor­ing team — at 111.5 points per game com­ing into the con­test — Den­ver poured in 34 points in the first quar­ter on 70 per­cent shoot­ing and didn’t slow down much in the sec­ond, tak­ing a 64-53 lead into the half. They cooled in the sec­ond half and fin­ished the game shoot­ing 48 per­cent from the field.

The Nuggets blew out In­di­ana (36-36) in their only other meet­ing this sea­son — a dom­i­nat­ing 140-112 per­for­mance Jan. 12.

“That’s a big win for us on the road, and com­ing off a pretty good game against the Cava­liers,” Chan­dler said. “We came out and were just ag­gres­sive again.”

Den­ver Nuggets cen­ter Ma­son Plum­lee shoots over In­di­ana Pac­ers cen­ter Lavoy Allen dur­ing Fri­day night’s game in In­di­anapo­lis. The Nuggets won 125-117, im­prov­ing their record to 35-37. R Brent Smith, The As­so­ciate Press

Pac­ers cen­ter Myles Turner fouls Nuggets guard Ja­mal Mur­ray dur­ing the sec­ond half of Den­ver’s 125-117 vic­tory Fri­day night in In­di­anapo­lis. R Brent Smith, The As­so­ci­ated Press

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