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Preview: Denver Nuggets look to finish off undefeated homestand with win over Indiana Pacers

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NBA: Indiana Pacers at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets appear to be back on track. They were able to take care of the Minnesota Timberwolves handily on Tuesday and followed it up with an exciting buzzer beating win over the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday. Now, in order to complete the 3-0 homestand Denver will have to beat the only current playoff contender in the group: the Indiana Pacers.

Most expected the Pacers to fall off when star guard Victor Oladipo went down with a knee injury in the end of January. However, the Pacers have been defiant to the idea that Oladipo’s injury prematurely ended their hopes for a successful season and have rallied behind Bojan Bogdanovic and Domantas Sabonis. With the accompanying veteran presence of players like Darren Collison, Wesley Matthews and Thaddeus Young the Pacers currently sit fourth in the Eastern Conference standings.

The Basics

Who: Indiana Pacers (44-25) at Denver Nuggets (45-22)

When: 7:00 PM MDT

Where: The Can, Denver CO

How to watch/listen: Altitude TV, AltitudeNOW.com, the AltitudeNOW app and Altitude Radio 92.5FM

Rival blog: Indy Cornrows

Projected Matchups

Position Nuggets Pacers Advantage
Position Nuggets Pacers Advantage
PG Jamal Murray Darren Collison Pacers
SG Gary Harris Wesley Matthews Nuggets
SF Will Barton Bojan Bogdanovic Pacers
PF Paul Millsap Thaddeus Young Nuggets
C Nikola Jokic Myles Turner Nuggets
Bench Monte Morris, Mason Plumlee, Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig Domantas Sabonis, Doug McDermott, Corey Joseph, T.J. Leaf Even

Injured players: Torrey Craig - game time decision (shoulder), Michael Porter Jr - out (back), Victor Oladipo - out (knee)

Key matchup: Jamal Murray vs Darren Collison

RPM, BPM, WS/48, PER, VORP...pick any catch all metric you want, Collison rates higher than Murray across the board. He’s one of those sneaky good players who’s been putting in solid minutes for the course of his entire career and this season is no different. That’s the key difference between Collison and Murray: consistency. There’s no doubt Murray’s ceiling is much higher than Collison’s and no doubt that when he is in the zone he’s far more dangerous than Collison has ever been in his career, but the fact of the matter is Murray just isn’t “in the zone” enough to outrank Collison’s consistent body of work. This matchup tonight could very well be the one that swings the game. If Murray is on he’ll give the Nuggets the edge, but if he’s having an off night Collison will give him plenty of trouble.

Key thing to watch for: Trey Lyles

Lyles has been nursing a hamstring injury for some time, but is not listed on the Nuggets injury report tonight. Torrey Craig, who took a nasty Mason Plumlee elbow to the shoulder in the waning moments of the Nuggets victory over Minnesota, is listed as a GTD after not playing against the Mavericks. Juancho Hernangomez got about six minutes of time in that game against Dallas but even before the Craig injury it was becoming obvious Denver could benefit from another true PF in the rotation. Lyles fits the bill of true PF, but his play was erratic at best before his injury. If he gets minutes tonight I’ll be paying close attention. Lyles could be the key final piece of the rotation, but he could also be a detriment whenever he’s on the floor, much like he was before he got hurt.

Opening thought: important to get this win

The Nuggets had a rough week last week, losing four of five. They bounced back nicely against Minnesota and escaped over looking a Mavericks team they should have run out of the building. The Pacers are a more daunting matchup than either the TWolves or the Mavs so the Nuggets need to be ready. If they can complete this 3-0 homestand though its just what the doctor ordered. Denver will have seven of their next nine on the road after tonight, including four of the seven against playoff teams. Getting this win tonight will give them the momentum they’re going to need going into a stretch of games that could make or break their ability to get no worse than a two seed.