It was one of those games where if the refs wanted to stop the carnage after the third quarter, they wouldn't have upset anybody.
As the Denver Nuggets raced to a 97-82 lead heading into the fourth quarter Friday night, the Indiana Pacers had little shot of making anything out of nothing in the thin Denver air after failing so miserably in the final minutes of the third stanza. In typical fashion on the road, the Pacers allowed the fourth quarter to become an exhibition as Denver held a double-digit lead for most of the final minutes, ultimately handing the blue and gold a 122-114 loss.
Catching Denver without Kenyon Martin or Ty Lawson, the Pacers kept things interesting through the first half trailing by only eight at halftime. In, hopefully, a more "relevant" moment as a player, Josh McRoberts used his extended playing time tonight to help breath some life into the squad with a posterizing-dunk over Chris Anderson with 4:03 left in the third quarter to bring the Pacers within 82-76.
But, staying with the trend that has led to their past five losses in a row on the road, the Pacers fell apart in the third quarter. With only four minutes to go, the Nuggets made the most of the little time. A dunk by Joey Graham, four points by Anderson, and with Carmelo Anthony pushing the tempo for seven points, Denver mounted a 15-6 run to close the quarter and put the game out of reach.
Easy as 1-2-3. And just like that, the Pacers' Road Trip From Hell is nearly over. More on this one after the break.
In this game, Anthony (who dropped 34 points on 12-of-20 shooting) and J.R. Smith (20 points, eight assists) led an athletic charge that played into the Pacers' desire to run, run and run. The Pacers mistakenly believed they could outshoot Denver in the mountain skies, but as each TV break showcased heaving Pacers players on the sidelines trying to catch their breaths, it was only a matter of time before Indiana ran out of gas and wouldn't be able to match shot-for-shot with some of the best offensive players in the league. Danny Granger did his damnedest to keep up. He continued to shake off his performance against the Lakers by nearly matching Melo with 32 points. Troy Murphy just missed another double-double with 14 points, nine rebounds.
Roy Hibbert and Brandon Rush had 12 points apiece. Hibbert dealt with foul issues as usual, picking up his fifth with 1:23 to go in the third quarter during that key Nuggets' run. Immediately after picking up the fifth, he hit this sweet, awkward, crazy-freakin' spin move that should appear on some replay tomorrow. It was one of the final Pacers' highlights after Denver's run.
- Dahntay Jones earned 21 minutes visiting his former playground from last year. He didn't do too much interesting with the playing time, however. He went 1-of-5 from the field for five points.
Nene and Andersen each added 13 points and they combined for 16 rebounds, helping to make up for the absence inside of Martin, who sat out with a recurrence of left knee tendinitis.
There was a point where this game seemed like it would be over by halftime. So give the Pacers credit for at least keeping that for happening. Smith hit a pair of 3-pointers in the last 90 seconds of the first quarter, helping the Nuggets earn a 10-point lead. Denver blasted the game away when it scored 12 of the next 17 points, moving in front 50-33 midway through the second. But the blue and gold made its big run of the night (using lots of energy in the process) by stringing together a 10-0 run to pull to 52-45.
- Mike Dunleavy continues his quest to have as minimal effect on each game as possible. His five points in 11 minutes was fairly uneventful. Maybe his minutes could be diverged to rookie A.J. Price. The "free A.J." signs were put down for a few moments on Friday as the rook went in for nine minutes. As usual, he made the coaching staff look like morons by scoring seven points (5-of-6 from the free-throw line). I'm going to the ignore the 0-2 assist-to-turnover ratio. He can't win 'em all!
- The Nuggets went 2-0 against the Pacers this season, their fourth series sweep in the last six years.