The Denver Nuggets headed into their Sunday evening game with the Indiana Pacers fresh off of an overtime thriller against the Golden State Warriors after being down by as many as 19 points.
The Nuggets used a big 4th quarter and strong their defense came on late to force overtime and, from there, close the Warriors out.
Malik Beasley and Michael Porter Jr. were great off of the bench and helped get the Nuggets back in the game combining for 45 points, 14 rebounds, and five steals.
Denver wanted to use that big fourth-quarter push and start out their game against the Pacers with more energy.
Denver started out well, but could not close Indiana out as the Pacers escaped with a 115-107 victory.
In a game that saw the Pacers win the fourth quarter 41-26, I give you, the good, bad and ugly.
Good – Great defensive start
The Nuggets did not get off to the start that they wanted on the offensive end as they were only able to put up 21 points on 37.5% shooting from the field at the end of the first quarter, but one thing that stood out was their defense.
Denver limited the Pacers to only 15 points on 28% shooting from the field and also did not allow Indiana to hit a 3-pointer in the first quarter as they went 0-6 from beyond the arc. Denver pitched a shutout until there was 7:49 remaining in the first quarter.
Denver’s great defensive start put them in the driver’s seat for the rest of the half as the Pacers were run off of the 3-point line, could not get open looks at the rim and had to work extremely hard for extra possessions.
Denver’s defense has been in a bit of a funk as of late to begin games and after allowing the Warriors to go for 131 points in their last game, the defense was the focus heading into Sunday’s game.
The Nuggets kept their defensive momentum in the second quarter as the Nuggets led 50-44 at the half.
Indiana was kept off of the glass as the Nuggets had a 29-19 rebounding advantage at the half and the defense led the way for Denver in the first half.
When the Nuggets are able to get off to a great start with their defense leading the way, it sets the tone for the rest of the game and Denver is able to control the direction of the game from there.
Bad – First half three-point shooting
The defense led the way for the Nuggets in the first half as they limited the Pacers to only 44 points and it was a first-half that the Nuggets asserted their will on Indiana inside.
The Nuggets rebounded the ball exceptionally well, did not allow the Pacers to go on any runs and dominated inside.
At the half, Denver had 32 points in the paint, but a big reason that the Nuggets had to go inside was because of how badly they shot from beyond the arc.
Denver missed plenty of open looks from deep in the first half as Nikola Jokic was the only Nuggets player to hit a 3-pointer at intermission.
The Nuggets shot 43% from the field at the break and it was not due to being able to hit their open looks. Denver went 1-10 from deep.
Indiana on the other hand, started a bit slow shooting the ball as they were not able to hit a shot from deep in the first frame, but turned it around in the second quarter as they went 5-9 from beyond the arc.
Denver was able to sustain the lead that they built early on even without knocking down shots, but it ended up setting the tone for the rest of the game and the Nuggets were never able to turn things around.
Denver has to find a balance where their offense is flowing both inside and out so that they can build big leads and get into a rhythm.
Ugly – Fourth-quarter collapse
It is extremely difficult to beat a team when you go 3-23 from beyond the arc and also 22-32 from the free-throw line. It is even harder when you allow a bench player to go for 18 points in the fourth quarter alone, but that is exactly what happened and led to the Nuggets loss.
Former Nuggets draft pick Doug McDermott had a season-high 24 points on the night as he went 9-10 from the field and 6-7 from beyond the arc.
Domantas Sabonis was also able to help close the Nuggets out as he hit some timely shots, rebounded well and had one of his best all-around game of the season.
Sabonis finished with a triple-double of 22 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 assists. He had eight points down the final stretch and was ultra-aggressive on the boards as well.
Indiana trailed for a majority of the game, but turned it on when it mattered most. The Pacers did not take their first lead of the game until under four minutes remaining as they won the final frame 41-26 and did not look back from there.
While the Pacers came on in the final frame, the Nuggets faltered.
Jokic had an impressive game where he finished with 30 points and 10 rebounds, but was nowhere to be found in the fourth quarter. He had two free throws in the fourth and did not record a field goal as he only shot twice.
The Nuggets have to find a way to not only hit shots at home, but also find a way to close out games as well.
Not having Jamal Murray and Paul Millsap down the final stretch seemed to be too much for the Nuggets to overcome, but Denver has to do a better job of keeping up the defensive intensity throughout the game and feeding their best player as well.
This was a disappointing loss for Denver.