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Preview: Nuggets look to control their density with a win over the Pacers

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The Nuggets playoff hopes hang on the edge of a knife, and that tightrope act continues with a home game against the dangerous Pacers.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Pacers bring a five game winning streak to Pepsi Center Tuesday night as the Denver Nuggets look to keep up the fight for a playoff berth. A win tonight helps the Nuggets maintain a position where they control their own destiny, while a loss puts their playoff hopes in the hands of other teams in the league.

The Pacers are on the last game of a four-game West Coast road trip, as they battle for playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference. Put them on the court together, and you have two teams that are both hungry for a win.

It should be an exciting game!

The Basics

Who: Indiana Pacers (46-31) at Denver Nuggets (42-35)

When: 7:00 PM MDT

Where: Pepsi Center, Denver CO

How to watch/listen: Altitude TV and KKSE Altitude Radio AM950

Rival Blog: Indy Cornrows

Lineups

Position
Pacers
Nuggets
Edge
PG
Darren Collison
Jamal Murray
Even
SG
Victor Oladipo
Will Barton
Pacers
SF
Bojan Bogdanovic
Juancho Hernangomez
Pacers
PF
Thaddeus Young
Paul Millsap
Nuggets
C
Myles Turner
Nikola Jokic
Nuggets
Bench
Cory Joseph, Lance Stephenson, Domantas Sabonis, Trevor Booker
Devin Harris, Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig, Trey Lyles, Mason Plumlee
Pacers

Injuries: Tyler Lydon (out - knee), Gary Harris (questionable - knee), Wilson Chandler (questionable - nasal fracture)

Three things to watch

This isn’t the 2016-17 Pacers. That team was defeated by the Nuggets soundly in a game played overseas in London. The Nuggets hung 140 on the Pacers in that game, and launched one of the most exciting stretches of recent Nuggets history - Jokic-ball! The Nuggets realized in that game that they could eviscerate teams in the halfcourt by giving Jokic the ball and utilizing a motion offense to get easy looks at the rim and wide-open perimeter shots.

This squad has flourished under Nate McMillan’s coaching and the arrival of Victor Oladipo. Oladipo earned an All-Star berth, and was just named Eastern Conference Player of the Week. They’re a balanced, talented team, with young players that aren’t quite that young and veteran players that aren’t long in the tooth.

Don’t collapse in the fourth quarter. The Pacers have made a name for themselves this season with their ability to fall behind in the first and second quarter, readjust at halftime, and blitz teams in the second half. They’ve had numerous comeback wins this season, but they’re in that position because they stink in the first half.

For the Nuggets, they’ve made a name for themselves this season by coughing up leads late in games. This is due to a variety of reasons - luck, coaching, experience - but it’s a trend. It’s not fake news. The Nuggets struggle to win close games (their last game notwithstanding).

If the Nuggets can run out to a 20-point lead with 3 minutes left in the third quarter, and keep it through the fourth quarter until it’s a 12-point lead with 3 minutes left in the fourth, they’ll have a really good chance at winning. That’ll mean they’ll need to defend, a serious challenge with the possibility of Gary Harris and Wilson Chandler being out of the lineup. Thank goodness Torrey Craig has only used 35 games of his 45 day contract, because the Nuggets need his defense (ps - the 45 days was nearly up on February 1, according to media reports, and it’s April 3. The league pays the Nuggets so little attention, they haven’t noticed!).

Bench squad. The Pacers bench is really good. Not as good as the Raptors bench, but still very talented. Cory Joseph is legit. They’ll run sets for Bogdanovic, and just rack up points. The Nuggets found great success with Trey Lyles being a focal part of the second unit against the Bucks - they should try that again against the Pacers, who don’t have a big man off the bench that can take advantage of a size mismatch down low. That might mean that Mason Plumlee should only play 5-7 minutes tonight -- but they’ll be very gritty, sound, energetic minutes.

Prediction

We’re doomed. The Nuggets absolutely need to win this game. You can’t fool me, I’m a scholar of the Nugglife.

Pacers 118 - Nuggets 112.

Now go and prove me wrong. I’ll be the rowdy fan in the upper bowl squawking like a booby.

Anybody else think it’s weird that Doc invents a time machine, and the most important thing he can do for mankind is help Marty’s parents hook up? Couldn’t have gone back and, I don’t know, snuffed out baby Hitler? Told our ancestors that instead of drinking the alcohol before surgery, they should wash their instruments with it? Isn’t this basically a trolley problem, the life of Marty for the betterment of many?

Maybe I’m alone in this thought. Anyways, go Nuggets! The playoffs are your density ... no, wait, destiny.