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Pacers come up short against Nuggets 125-117

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A staggering free throw disparity haunted the Pacers despite a strong fourth quarter comeback, falling at home to Denver. Paul George scored 27.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Indiana Pacers Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The days of the Indiana Pacers alternating wins and losses came to an end after 15 games, but it came to an ennd on the wrong side of mediocrity, falling at home to the Denver Nuggets for their second straight loss. Despite solid play from the Pacers bench, the Pacers were merely a nominal threat to Denver, who blew out the Pacers for the second time this season.

One of the worst kept secrets of this Pacers season has been how their wins and losses seem almost predictable despite their unpredictable play. There’s been little room for adjustment when the matchups haven’t been there for the Pacers and the Nuggets proved that yet again tonight. The Nuggets become the ninth team the Pacers have either swept or been swept by this season.

Denver had little resistance against the Pacers defense in the first half, shooting 70% in the first quarter en route to scoring 62 first half points, assisting on 19 of their 25 field goals. That continued to work in Denver’s favor in the second half, as a sizable free throw advantage began to grow, outshooting the Pacers 25-5 through three quarters, eventually being outscored 40-8.

Once in the fourth, the Pacers made their final push, with back-to-back threes from Paul George giving Indiana some life, outscoring Denver 27-9 to draw the game to within five, but Nikola Jokic closed out the win in a game the Pacers never led. Not only did Jokic finish off a 30 point, 17 rebound night for the win, but mistakes by the Pacers only helped close out the game quicker.

Nate McMillan scrambled to patch his already questionable lineups when it was announced Glenn Robinson III would miss at least two weeks with a left calf strain. Rodney Stuckey returned to the rotation, but still went scoreless despite pulling the team’s highest +/-. It shifted Monta Ellis into the starting lineup for the second half, scoring 17. The move didn’t hinder the second unit in at least staying afloat, with Aaron Brooks breaking out his slump to score 11.

Lavoy Allen’s offensive rebounding was a big factor in allowing the bench to trim the lead to as few as two in the second quarter. He had seven of his eight rebounds on the offensive end. The Pacers had 11 as a team, but it didn’t factor much into the Pacers’ success, with Denver eventually tying the Pacers with five in the fourth and outscoring Indiana 12-6 in second chance points.

Paul George led the way for the Pacers with 27 points, scoring 16 in the fourth with four threes in a game the Pacers were desperate for anyone to lead. Myles Turner and Jeff Teague also joined the 20-point club with 20 and 21 point nights respectively, but much of that came in the fourth quarter comeback, not when the game was getting out of hand to begin with. Turner did play better late after a rocky start, finishing with four blocks on his 21st birthday.

The Pacers scored 42 fourth quarter points, their only quarter win of the game, but they also allowed 31 points, as Denver reached the 30 point landmark in every quarter. Despite outshooting the Nuggets and hitting 13 three pointers, the free throw gap was far too big for the Pacers to overcome, keeping them at arm’s length the entire night.

Back at .500 for the first time since January, the Pacers continue to be what they were for the previous 15 games of alternating wins and losses, but will look to stay above .500 when they host the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday. Though, with Detroit taking on a big loss and Chicago well on their way (as of this writing), it doesn’t appear there will be much threat in actually eliminating the Pacers from the playoff picture should Indiana continue to falter.