Once again, the Indiana Pacers showed tremendous resolve in pushing towards a win, overcoming an eight point deficit with under three minutes in regulation to defeat the Denver Nuggets in overtime. The Pacers had to stage not one, but two comebacks against the Nuggets, who started hot, dominating the Pacers from beyond the arc and in second chance points, eventually building a 53-34 lead with six and a half minutes in the second quarter.
Down 18 a minute later, the Nuggets had hit their nine three pointer of the half, while Indiana sat at just 1-5. The Nuggets were not only hitting threes at a high rate, the Pacers weren’t even making the three a part of their offensive attack. With four minutes in the quarter, Myles Turner completed a run of eight straight Pacers points by hitting a three, teeing off three Indiana three pointers to close the half, drawing the Pacers to within seven at the break.
The Pacers continued to fight in the third quarter, clawing all the way back to tie the game at 79-79 on a Turner dunk.
The Pacers struggled to get stops to keep the game to really flip the game in their favor, but would eventually build a lead heading into the fourth quarter at 90-88. Indiana would extend that lead to six points at 96-90 with 9:31 remaining, but the Nuggets had another push in them, rattling off a 24-10 run behind 13 of Trey Lyles’s career high 25 points.
Lyles hit three threes in that stretch, with Denver piling on the Pacers by scoring 15 straight points on four threes and a foul on a three point shot. It would wrap up a night where the Nuggets made 17 three pointers, turning 19 offensive rebounds into 25 second chance points.
Better late than never, the Indiana defense then turned up down 114-106 with Victor Oladipo getting into the lane for big buckets late. Oladipo scored six straight points to draw the game to two and a miss with six seconds in regulation was put back in by Thaddeus Young, forcing overtime at 114-114.
Closing regulation on an 8-0 run was enough for the Pacers to seize momentum and dominate the Nuggets in overtime, scoring the first 12 of the extra period to lead them to a 126-116 victory. In the overtime, Oladipo would score six, including a back breaking three with three to go, but it was Lance Stephenson that led the Pacers in the overtime with big rebounds and drawing offensive fouls with pesky defense.
In the end, the Pacers capitalized on the one area they had the advantage against Denver, outscoring them 34-13 in points off turnovers. The Pacers forced 22 turnovers on the Nuggets, including four of those coming during Indiana’s 20-0 run. They only scored four points off of those particular turnovers, but each miscue by the Nuggets put them increasingly out of sorts. By the time the Pacers had secured the win, Denver’s offense was such a mess, they were unable to get any sort of positive look at a shot despite their continued rebounding success.
The Pacers were led on the night by Oladipo, who scored a career high 47 points, doing so on an impressive 15-28 shooting. Oladipo was much better at the line tonight, converting 11-13 from the line and for the second straight game, hit six three pointers. Oladipo had seven rebounds and a pair of steals, including six assists, stepping up to lead the starters in the absence of Darren Collison.
Oladipo not only had a career night, but did so by scoring 32 points in the second half and overtime. While this team’s fight and effort is contagious through the entire roster, it’s because of Oladipo’s big shot making abilities through the first 27 games of the season that they’re able to see reward for fighting to the very end of games.
In addition to Oladipo’s on the court play, it’s been his post-game interviews with Jeremiah Johnson that have really come to show why Oladipo is not just playing at an extremely high level, but shows in his interviews that it can always be improved upon and most importantly, that he wants to be here.
As Oladipo lifted the Pacers to the win, he received plenty of help from his teammates, including Stephenson. Stephenson scored 12 on 6-11 shooting with six rebounds and six assists off the bench. Four of those assists came in a two minute stretch as the Pacers Denver 12-4 to cut an 18-point deficit to 10.
Stephenson had a hand in every basket in that stretch, not only dishing the four assists, but scoring a layup of his own. Three of those assists went to Turner, who had one of his best nights of the season as well, scoring 24 points on 10-15 shooting, hitting a pair of threes. He was the lead in rebounds on the night with eight.
Young was the third Pacer starter in double figures with 18 points and six rebounds, shooting 8-11, including the putback to send the game into overtime. Along with Domantas Sabonis shooting 6-10, the success of the Pacers was heavily centralized to five double figure scorers. The Pacers shot 52.7% for the game, the five double figure scorers accounting for 60% from the floor. Only Joe Young (1-2) shot anywhere near 50% among the nine-man rotation.
Collison missed tonight’s game with a sore knee, and Cory Joseph struggled to make up the difference at 1-7 shooting, though he did have five assists. Bojan Bogdanovic had some good possessions defensively, but also struggled shooting, finishing with seven points. The Pacers winning without contributions from Bogdanovic have been rare this season; they entered this home stretch just 1-10 when Bogdanovic scored under 15.
They are 2-0 in this winning streak, however, suggesting they’re finding ways to work around an off-night from an important contributor. Oladipo playing at such a high level certainly helps, but so does the play from Turner, who is finding more consistency of late, averaging 16.4 points per game on 54.8% shooting in his late eight games, all in double figures.
At 16-11, the Pacers secure their 10th home win of the season, moving to 10-4, and staying perfect in their current home stand at 4-0. They’ve got two more games left at home, and will have a real opportunity to showcase their recent play in a national spotlight as they host the Oklahoma City Thunder on ESPN on Wednesday.
The game will no doubt be billed as the return of Paul George to Bankers Life Fieldhouse, but a date that was originally circled in red marker has seen the ink fade with the play from this exciting Pacers team. Increasingly, it feels like just another game, but no doubt it will be rewarding in its own right to show George that the grass isn’t always greener.