Nuggets at Pacers: How to win when expecations are low

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, your Denver Nuggets will take on the equally starless (bogus term) Indiana Pacers as a precursor to Sunday night's showdown with old friend Carmelo Anthony. With the apparent mood of Nuggets nation that of eternal despair, how do the Nuggets beat the Pacers when expectations are low?

Loading Scores
2012/2013 NBA Regular Season: Game 20
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vs
9-10

10-9
December 7, 2012, 5:00 PM (MT)
Bankers Life Fieldhouse - Indianapolis, IN
TV Altitude / 950 AM / 104.3 FM The Fan
Probable Starters
Ty Lawson PG George Hill
Andre Iguodala SG Lance Stephenson
Danilo Gallinari SF Paul George
Kenneth Faried PF David West
Kosta Koufos C Roy Hibbert
Notes
Yo, you already here! Blogs Indy Cornrows
Chandler, Stone (out) Injuries Pendergraph, Granger (out)
Denver - Current home of Peyton Manning. Stat Indianapolis - former home of Peyton Manning

So how about them Indiana Pacers eh? That Larry Bird (formerly with the Pacers) built himself a nice ... uhhh ... squad that is very well coached by (looks up Pacers coach) Frank Vogel, and plays a tough level of hard nosed basketball that is perfect for the rough and tumble Eastern Conference.

Quite frankly, outside of one game I have seen VERY little of the Pacers this season. I can tell you what I know from last year, and that Tyler Hansbrough is an irritant (but very effective), Roy Hibbert is a very good big man who clogs the paint with the best of them, and David West is a competent power forward who has a tendency to be dominated by Kenyon Martin (what? KMart isn't on the Nuggets anymore? DAMMIT!). George Hill is a competent point guard and runs the Pacers offense that has some shades of Tex Winter's Triangle offense (via Brian Shaw).

Danny Granger (aka ... yet ANOTHER player Denver Stiffs readers covet) is injured, but the Pacers have managed to replace, somewhat, his production with Paul George. Truth be told, Granger can be a bit hit and miss at times and George has stepped in admirably. With their victory against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Pacers have now climbed above .500. Last year the Nuggets went in to Indiana and came away with a victory. It will be interesting to see what the Nuggets have in store tonight because, unlike most people on the internet ... I was encouraged by the Nuggets last game against the Atlanta Hawks.

As far as matchups go ... this Nuggets team matches up fairly well with the Pacers, and as always things will come down to whether or not the Pacers are able to force the Nuggets into a half court offense and eliminate the Nuggets penetration ability.

Nuggets of Wisdom

I had an excursion/meeting in Blackhawk provided by a client of mine on Wednesday night. I was not able to watch the Nuggets game versus the Atlanta Hawk until I saw the replay in my hotel room late that night. I watched through the whole thing and came away with two impressions

1. The Nuggets team looked well-prepared and overall looked like a better team

2. Andre Iguodala needs to stop turning the ball over so much.

I chalked it up to a "good loss". I came back yesterday morning, read through twitter, and lost faith in humanity again as score after score of "lets trade everybody" tweets came into my view. Not that my view is the correct one, I just was so surprised people weren't encouraged by the Nuggets performance on the road against a good team. Simply put, the Nuggets overcame a bad night from Iguodala, some sketchy shooting from Danilo Gallinari (although his trips to the foul line was encouraging) and Kenneth Faried's inability to guard a big man who also can shoot from the perimeter. Encouraged by Ty Lawson's scoring, Timofey Mozgov's rebounding and the overall offensive flow of this Nuggets team.

I was listening to Travis Heath last night on the radio. I hate to disagree with my esteemed friend (Heath is seriously the best Nuggets writer we have in Denver ... hands down) but his assertion that the Nuggets "don't" have an end-of-game player is probably the wrong way to look at it. Unfortunately the Nuggets have THREE end of game players who can all hit big shots ... but there is no player who has been designated "go-to" at the end of games. Why? That lays squarely on the shoulders of George Karl.

When you spend the better part of two years declaring that "this is a team" and "we don't need take over people at the end of games" you completely stunt the growth of go-to players at the end of games. Iguodala, Gallinari and Lawson have all hit clutch shots at the end of games. This is fact. The Nuggets have players who can do this. The problem is Karl is so caught up in this idea that he doesn't need one, he hasn't given the reigns to anyone but himself. So we are left with badly designed plays (Utah, Warriors) and players who force the issue (Gallo, Lawson in Atlanta). Just say to the players that "this guy" (insert player) will be taking end of game shots. Point blank period. Live or die by the alpha dog.

Outside of that, I'm VERY encouraged by what I saw against Atlanta. I'm looking forward to what the Nuggets do in these next couple road games, starting tonight against the Pacers!

Go Nuggets!

Be sure and listen to Les Shapiro and Tom Nalen every Monday-Friday on 102.3 ESPN from Noon to 3 pm.

***

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