Nothing surprising took place tonight between the Denver Nuggets and Indiana Pacers as the Pacers continued to flounder on their current road trip, getting blown out in Colorado. The losing streak is now six and these last four games in particular have taken the losing to a different level, yet another double figure loss while allowing 125+.
The Nuggets scored 134 points, which is the worst of the streak, on 61.4% shooting, the highest percentage allowed on the season. Indiana meanwhile inched their way up to 44.6% after spending a large of the game at 40% and under 20% from three. That inability to hit shots really bit them early in the first, when after a fairly solid start (tying the game at 10-10 early and trailing 14-12 a bit later), the Nuggets scored 13 straight to take a double figure lead.
The Pacers shot 36% in the first quarter, but still managed to closed the gap to seven by getting to the line, converting on two three-shot fouls courtesy of Denver. They simply weren’t able to string together enough stops at any point to do much beyond that, blinking and finding themselves down by 16. Late in the second quarter, Indiana got as close they would get in the game, converting on three consecutive Denver turnovers to cut the lead to five.
It would be a seven point game early in the third when Buddy Hield was whistled for a defensive three second violation, setting up Michael Porter Jr. and the Nuggets for a reverse four point play that made it a double figure game once again. Denver used that to rattle off a 16-3 run, pushing the advantage to 20.
If the game wasn’t over at that point, it was late in the third, however. Chris Duarte and Bennedict Mathurin combined for seven straight points to cut the lead to 10. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed his shot attempt, but Indiana was unable to corral the rebound, setting up Christian Braun for an alley oop.
Three straight Indiana turnovers and three more shots at the rim later (including another alley oop for good measure), the Nuggets led by 18, an advantage they would just build on in the fourth thanks to some lights out shooting, shooting 70% in the fourth and 5-7 from three, wrapping up their ninth straight win.
While it’s important to note the difficulty of schedule in this Tyrese Haliburton-less stretch of basketball, the Pacers are also just playing really poorly period. Their defense was non-existent throughout the game, allowing Denver to not only shoot 50% from three at 14-28, but also score 68 points in the paint and 23 fast break points.
The Indiana offense meanwhile was heavily reliant on Denver just fouling them on three point shots, going 8-9 on such attempts, leading them to 11 extra points from the line at the game. The Pacers hit four threes in the fourth quarter to double their total to that point, entering the final period shooting 4-19 from deep, including 0-2 from Buddy Hield, scoring nine.
Hield’s been the player most effected by the absence of Haliburton, scoring in single digits three times, averaging 10.6 in the last five, a nearly eight point drop off from his season average to that point. His drop off in scoring has raised a real question for Indiana: who can go out there and just score?
The Pacers have had just four 20-point scorers over these last five, none in the last two games while allowing 10 such instances in the same time. Mathurin got close tonight, leading the way, scoring 19 with Duarte following behind with 18. The duo shot a combined 10-18 from the field and 16-19 from the line. In the starting lineup, Myles Turner had 15 to go with seven rebounds and two blocks while Aaron Nesmith hit a team high three threes to finish with 13.
No one else reached double figures, including Andrew Nembhard, who had just five points on 2-10 shooting, missing his final eight three point attempts. He had six assists, leading the way with T.J. McConnell, but the two also had nine turnovers, totaling 21 for the game, setting up Denver for 22 free points.
The Pacers will mercifully wrap up their four game road trip tomorrow night against the Phoenix Suns. A loss tomorrow would mean the first winless four game road trip since March 2019, but the good news is that they’ll face a team in Phoenix has that fallen into a hole since Devin Booker got injured, going 3-12 in their last 15.