The Pacers didn't lie down and in fact played some high-quality minutes among the 48 available. After falling behind by double-digits Indiana rallied to within one point late in the fourth quarter, then had a chance to tie with ten seconds to play, but Darren Collison zigged when David West thought he would zag and instead of resetting for one more shot, the Pacers turned the ball over. Game over.
Indiana opened the game with 35-26 lead after first quarter. Danny Granger had 18 first-quarter points and the team shot 77.8% from the floor, yet still held just a 9-point lead. While it was a blast to watch and the Pacers were playing quite well, they were actually playing right into the hands of the Nuggets.
The Pacers followed up the fiery first quarter with a more familiar effort, shooting just 38% and giving up the lead that had swelled to 13 points to end the half in a 60-60 tie. But don't point the finger at the second unit, the lead actually vanished late in the second quarter when the Nuggets ran past the Pacers starting unit on a 15-2 run.
The Pacers transition defense was put to test all game and the Nuggets took advantage of every little lull the Pacers showed in getting back to defend their hoop. Corey Brewer seemed to be sprinting to the tin all night as one of several players to get easy buckets on the run for Denver.
The Pacers needed to adjust their attack, somehow dictate how this thing was going to go down in the second half because obviously they wouldn't succeed by just trying to run alongside the Nuggets. They were unable to do so at the offensive end and defensively they had no answer for point guard Ty Lawson who ate up Darren Collison, forcing Paul George to give it a try in the fourth quarter. Lawson finished with 27 points, scoring inside and out as the Pacers simply couldn't contain him with the ball.
The Pacers have a day off tomorrow before actually getting a practice in before they host the Miami Heat on Tuesday.
More thoughts and observations after the jump.
- After Danny Granger's fast start with 18 points in the first quarter, he finished with 26 points, two rebounds, one assist and five turnovers. Granger also left the Fieldhouse immediately after the game not bothering to face the media instead leaving all of the questions for his teammates to answer. OK, captain.
- Corey Brewer made the most of his first start, killing the Pacers by being, well, everywhere. He also knocked down some perimeter shots to go with his ability to race up and down the court, finishing with 19 points. Combine that with Arron Afflalo's 23 points and Denver's utility wings did some damage which made a big difference in the outcome.
- Once Nuggets were able to smell an end to their five-game losing streak their swag began to ooze and they just kept running at the Pacers until they put them away. This was a solid win for Denver considering they were without Danilo Gallinlari and lost Nene early in the third quarter to a calf strain.
- The Pacers made their final push, cutting a 10-point Denver lead down to one on a pair of Paul George threes and then a fast break layup and foul for Darren Collison. The Pacers just needed one more big play to go their way and they just couldn't get it. George finished the game with 15 points and six rebounds.
- David West had another strong outing up until the late turnover mixup with Collison. Before the game Frank Vogel discussed how he wants West to be more aggressive on offense and it showed up with 22 points and 7 rebounds tonight.
- Before the game, Larry Bird presented Roy Hibbert with his All-Star jersey. Hibbert had trouble establishing anything in the post again, though. He finished with 12 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
- The Pacers had a season-low 31 rebounds while allowing Denver to gather 14 offensive rebounds. Combine that with 20 turnovers that Denver turned into 22 points and it tells you how well the Pacers executed otherwise to only lose by four points.
- This was the first loss for the Pacers after scoring at least 90 points. The 109 points in the losing effort also tied the highest point total the Pacers have scored in a games this season (109-99 win over Minnesota).