The Nuggets two best players stepped up in a huge game, with Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap carrying the Nuggets down the stretch on offense and defense for a huge win to keep their hopes alive for the postseason.
Jokic had 30 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists, while Millsap had 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 huge blocks.
Victor Oladipo lead the Pacers in scoring with 25 points, but his teammates weren’t efficient enough to over the Nuggets offense at Pepsi Center on Tuesday night.
The offense was clicking to start the game, jumping out to a 13-4 lead behind some defensive stops and nice motion on offense. It looked like they were just going to run away with incredible offense all night, but a guard jacked up a 3-pointer early in the shot clock, and the mojo was gone. The Nuggets proceeded to miss eight shots in a row, putting ice on their hot start and letting the Pacers get back into the game with a 9-1 run. Mason Plumlee stepped up and blocked a shot from Domantas Sabonis, triggering a fast break that resulted in a score for Torrey Craig. Craig made a sweet pass to Plumlee, who reverse-stuffed home a dunk.
Jokic checked back in with a few minutes remaining to try to salvage the quarter, because the offense was looking putrid. Lance Stephenson completed a full-court pass to Sabonis with 30 seconds remaining, and the Pacers tied the score at 26, but Jokic got fouled on the next possession and was able to give the Nuggets a one point lead after the first 12 minutes.
Cory Joseph started the second quarter with a jumper, giving the Pacers their first lead of the game, 28-27. Stephenson bullied his way to the rim in transition for an uncontested layup, stretching the Indiana run to 12-1, and Michael Malone felt compelled to call timeout to preach the gospel of good defense and getting to the rim on offense.
The Nuggets were able to scratch their way back to a tie game after the timeout, getting some stops on defense and overcoming some play calls to post up Jokic to even the score at 36. The Nuggets kept on clanging 3-pointers, but didn’t stop shooting them, but the rims weren’t loosening up despite the abuse they were taking.
HOLY CRAP MYLES TURNER, that was an incredible dunk.
The Pacers are an underrated defensive team, and they were able to rally to keep the Nuggets offense looking ... well, constipated. They weren’t able to find open passing lanes, with the Pacers slinging their arms in the air to disrupt Jokic’s vision, so the Nuggets just kept shooting 3-pointers. Millsap and Jokic were able to knock in a few, but the team went 4-18 on 3-point attempts in the first half. Murray made a nifty move to get open right before the buzzer, flipping in a shot to give the Nuggets a three point lead going into halftime, 49-46. It was a scrappy first 28 minutes, and it’ll be interesting to see how things go in the second half.
The second half started so well for the Nuggets, the basketball gods couldn’t have scripted it better. Jokic and Chandler powered a 9-0 run with 3-pointers, and the Nuggets had a 14 point lead real quick. The Pacers went on a small run to draw within four, but the Nuggets reeled off another 12-0 run, capped by an alley-oop by Mason Plumlee from Devin Harris. The Pacers countered with a run of their own following that dunk, playing physical and forcing the Nuggets into missed shots. Both teams traded blows, and the game got a little ugly for a stretch, with Denver coughing the ball up and igniting another Indiana run to close out the quarter. After having a 14 point lead at one point, they ended the quarter up by just four points.
Devin Harris had a nice drive to the rim at the beginning of the fourth quarter, getting a step on Lance Stephenson and finishing off the and-1 opportunity. The Nuggets got into the bonus with 8:48 remaining in the fourth quarter, a huge blessing for their offense, giving them an opportunity to get to the free throw line, rest, and set up their defense.
The Nuggets started attacking the rim, with Barton and Millsap driving, seeking out contact. Denver got a few bad breaks from the officials, and Indiana was able to close the gap down to two points with just under four minutes to go. Jamal Murray made a huge 3-pointer to bump the lead back up to five points, and we are officially in a #LeaguePassAlert situation. Paul Millsap had back-to-back blocks on Thaddeus Young, a pair of huge defensive plays, and the Nuggets were able to protect their five point lead.
Millsap had another block, swatting away Victor Oladipo after a drive and Will Barton was able to score over Myles Turner on the other end in transition. The Nuggets closed strong, and made their free throws, and they were able to hold onto a lead for a change to pick up a huge win.