It was a frustrating way to lose a game the Indiana Pacers had played well in, but when it came down to Indiana's hot hand vs. Denver's, it was Denver's that came out on top. In a game of starters, the Pacers really put it the struggling Denver Nuggets, but Denver's bench was far better than Indiana's. When the two went head to head, Andre Miller was the catalyst who was able to make the plays late.
The Pacers dealt with some tough calls late, but one put Miller at the line, as he went on to score eight straight Nuggets points as part of a 10-0 run to put Denver up seven with a minute to go. In that stretch, the Pacers killed themselves with quick, poor shots that didn't result in any points when they needed some. A Paul George three cut the lead to four and Lance Stephenson found himself at line, but him splitting the free throws cost the Pacers the chance at a 2-point game with the final ball after a stellar defensive possession.
George Hill had a look late, but in trying to force the foul, missed the game tying three. The Pacers did have a timeout remaining, but after the game, Frank Vogel and Paul George seemed disappointed at the lack of a call, though rights and wrongs rarely come into play for something that wasn't wildly blatant at the end of games. While it, and much of the Pacers collapse down the stretch make for easy targets for the loss, the Pacers more or less made their bed tonight.
It was those issues that ultimately made it closer than it probably should have been when they cropped up for the Pacers throughout the game. Turnovers were a mess again, points off turnovers were lopsided again. Indiana had 19 turnovers as part of a 23-7 game in points off turnovers. The Nuggets bench outscored Indiana's 55-12 (with all 55 coming from Miller, JaVale McGee, and Corey Brewer) and Denver dominated the paint, scoring 54, many in the first half through easy cuts to the basket.
Indiana had a lot of positives, but a healthy dose of negatives. All five starters reached double figures, but the bench had themselves a poor night aside from a couple of big shots from Sam Young. Ian Mahinmi did work on the boards, but couldn't find success with his shot at any point tonight. D.J. Augustin continues to underwhelm and Tyler Hansbrough brought nothing to the table besides energy. In the end, it became a starter reliant game with them getting work nearly the entire fourth.
Paul George played well again tonight, not forcing much and finishing with 22 points, six rebounds, and six assists. David West was lights out early, but had just two points in the second half, missing his looks. He did finish with an 18 & 11 double double. George Hill had a 15 point, 10 assist double double, Roy Hibbert started well offensively, but faded to a 3-10 game for 10 points, but with nine rebounds, did play well again on the defensive end of the floor. Lance Stephenson was hit or miss tonight, but his hits were big plays for the Pacers in his 12 point effort.
The Pacers would've done themselves right to win tonight to avoid falling below .500 when they travel to Oklahoma City to face the scorching Thunder, but they just weren't able to come away with it. The Sunday evening tip in OKC is what lies next for the Pacers, Kevin Durant and Co. giving the Pacers one of their biggest tests of the season.
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