The Indiana Pacers wrapped up their three game West Coast trip with a loss to the Denver Nuggets, losing in the exact same fashion they’ve lost just about all of their games lately; by completely falling apart in the fourth quarter. The Pacers led 91-87 after three, storming back from a 20-point first half deficit only to give it away immediately once the fourth started.
Indiana started the fourth by committing five turnovers in the first five minutes and taking just as much time to score a single point. By that point, the Nuggets had comfortably gone ahead by double figures, cruising to an easy win on the second 22-2 run of the gameh. The Pacers continue to be bafflingly bad in the fourth, bringing their three game fourth quarter total to 102-61, almost miraculously winning a game despite it.
The lineup to open the fourth, a bench lineup with Domantas Sabonis, did no favors given the struggles of both Sabonis and T.J. McConnell, immediately piling up the turnovers and opening things up for Denver. The fourth did a ton of work completely erasing all the good the Pacers had done up to that point, which in itself has been a common theme.
The Pacers were previously blitzed in the second quarter, falling behind 57-37 after having tied the game at 35-35. The Nuggets got there by going 6-6 from three to open the quarter as Indiana clanked their way to 0-7 in the same stretch. Things flipped on a Malcolm Brogdon three with five minutes in the half, as the Pacers cut the lead in half heading into the break.
In a game filled to the brim with runs, the Pacers outscored Denver 17-4 early in the third to go ahead, managing to hold onto that lead to end the third despite a wild sequence that allowed the Nuggets to pull in six offensive rebounds and score zero points, being a bit of a precursor to what would happen in the fourth.
The Pacers lived and died by the three point shot tonight, finishing 17-42, only getting below 50% of their attempts for the game because of how wildly off the rails the fourth quarter went. Justin Holiday and Doug McDermott totaled over half of those makes, dragging the Pacers all night with timely makes from beyond the arc. Brogdon and Caris LeVert each pitched in with three triples.
Myles Turner and Goga Bitadze offered up some top notch defense, combining for eight blocks and each offering up some impressive defensive possessions against Nikola Jokic, who otherwise had no resistance in his 32 points and 14 rebounds. Turner also elicited the first Smothered Chicken of the season on a block on Jokic.
For most teams, a collapse like this could be easy to write off given the circumstances surrounding the arrival of the team to Denver. They didn’t land from Phoenix until early this afternoon after a blizzard buried Denver under nearly two feet of snow. Combined with the altitude, it could almost be thought they ran out of gas.
Unfortunately for the Pacers, the altitude didn’t seem to matter, nor did the arrival time. The only real difference between tonight’s collapse and the collapse on Friday against the Lakers (and the attempted collapse against Phoenix) is the day of the week, which is not a particularly encouraging sign.
The Pacers will return home for a quick check-in before heading out on another three game road trip, facing the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday before the NCAA Tournament kicks off this weekend.