Pacers vs. Nuggets preview: Lawson, teammates need to dig deep against Roy Hibbert and NBA-best Indiana

Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Spo

The inconsistent Nuggets return home to face the NBA-leading 34-8 Indiana Pacers. With a team that has wildly oscillated from awful to excellent and back to awful again, it's anyone's guess how the Nuggets show up tonight.

Game 42: 2013-14 NBA Season
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34-8 (13-7 on road)
Series 0-0
20-21 (11-9 at home)
January 25th, 2014
Pepsi Center - Denver, CO
7:00 PM MT
Altitude / 950 AM

George Hill
PG Ty Lawson
Lance Stephenson
SG Randy Foye
Paul George SF Wilson Chandler
David West
PF Kenneth Faried
Roy Hibbert
C J.J. Hickson
Notes
Indy Cornrows Blogs Denver Stiffs
David West (wrist) is day-to-day
Injuries Danilo Gallinari (knee), JaVale McGee (leg) are out, Darrell Arthur (left hip strain) is day-to-day
The Pacers are first in the NBA in opponent points allowed (89.2)
Etc... The Nuggets are just 1-4 in their last 5

Brace yourselves, Nuggets fans - this one could get ugly.

While the Pacers are going to be on the second night of a back to back coming into Denver from the West coast - one of the most difficult scheduling obstacles to surmount for any team - the Pepsi Center seems to have lost a lot of its carbonation for this Nuggets team. The Nuggets have already given up three times as many games at home as they did all last season, and are currently mired in a three game losing streak.

Meanwhile, the Pacers have continued their bruising ways, despite an embarrassing 24 point loss to the Phoenix Suns on January 22nd. Brian Shaw's former team has utilized the extreme physical prowess of Roy Hibbert all season to dominate teams defensively, holding them to a league-leading 89.2 points per game. David West provides a reliable post presence with an assortment of moves and a nifty fadeaway jumper that will likely punish lapses by Kenneth Faried and J.J. Hickson all night (and we all know how common those have been lately). Paul George, Lance Stephenson, and Danny Granger will all test the perimeter defense of the Nuggets wings. Even with fatigue, the Pacers are going to be a tough challenge for the Nuggets to overcome.

It's tough to know how to feel about this Nuggets team right now, and even tougher to know what to expect. I'm not going to bother making any predictions because it's clear that the Nuggets will completely fail to meet them/exceed them wildly. The Nuggets have been so up-and-down with their play they might blow out the Pacers by 20 or lose by 15, though at this point the latter definitely seems more likely.

At this point, I am hoping that Brian Shaw takes a pragmatic approach to this team and the second half of this season. For me, that means starting Timofey Mozgov and Evan Fournier ahead of J.J. Hickson and Randy Foye, giving Jordan Hamilton and Quincy Miller additional minutes, and not running Ty Lawson into the ground by forcing him into 40 minutes a night every game. I will continue to call for Mozgov and Fournier to get the start ahead of Hickson and Foye, as Mozgov has demonstrably proven himself to be a better starting option than Hickson at the 5, and Fournier has at least shown he can produce when given the opportunity to do so. We and the Nuggets need to view the remainder of this season through the murky lens of "development", and hope that Fournier, (Quincy) Miller, Mozgov and Hamilton continue their progress going forward.

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