The Denver Nuggets continued their strong play on the road Tuesday night against the Indiana Pacers. After a bit of a slow start the Nuggets used a big third quarter and big performances from Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray to pull ahead of the Pacers and ultimately survive a late Indiana rally. Myles Turner scored twenty-two and T.J. McConnell gave Indiana seventeen points off the bench but it was too little too late. Jokic notched another triple double and needed only three quarters to do it to push Denver to 3-1 on the road trip with a chance to close out on a high note Thursday in New York City.

The teams traded baskets early with everybody chipping in as the game started at a high pace. Both teams shot it well but as the quarter progressed the Nuggets started to dictate a slower pace. Turner and Pascal Siakam did most of the damage for Indiana who got a small lead just past the halfway point of the quarter when the first of Denver’s reserves started checking in. Indiana went on a run while Denver looked sluggish on offense. Once again Denver’s opponent was refusing to double Jokic which led to everyone standing and watching while Joker went one on one with Turner. Andrew Nembhard attacked the rim for a couple baskets with a few minutes to go in the first and Indiana grew their lead up to five. Murray was playing great ball on Denver’s end which kept them within striking distance. He hit Peyton Watson on a crazy alley-oop right before the end of the first and after one the Nuggets trailed 29-28.

Indiana took advantage of some cold Denver offense to get out and run to open the second quarter and made Michael Malone call an early timeout to regroup. Denver’s bench group just couldn’t buy a basket though outside of Reggie Jackson. The lead got up to nine right around the time Jokic checked back into the game. Denver’s offense still was stalling though which let the Pacers push the lead into double digits with just under half the quarter left. The Pacers could have made it even worse because Denver went completely cold but the Pacers missed some shots as well. Denver’s defense tightened up and they were able to go on a run with the half almost over. Aaron Gordon converted an and-1 to pull the Nuggets within six with two minutes to go. The Pacers responded with a strong close to the quarter but Jokic nailed a three right before the buzzer and at halftime Indiana led 62-54.

Murray and Jokic went to work to start the second half and they strung together a couple of baskets. The Nuggets defense started to lock in and then Kentavious Caldwell-Pope knocked down back to back threes which drew the ire of Rick Carlisle who quickly got himself ejected and just like that Denver was up three with eight minutes to go in the quarter. Turner continued to be a force for Indiana though and Denver wasn’t able to grow the lead. The one thing Turner didn’t have going was his three point ball and he fell in love with that a bit midway through the third which stalled out the Pacers offense and Denver finally built a small lead. It quickly escalated to near double-digits and the Nuggets made Indiana take a timeout. They refocused and started playing with more energy to respond and Denver cooled a bit on offense to once again make it a tight game. Jokic pushed back, closing in on a triple double in the third quarter, and Denver closed in attack mode. They pushed the lead back to double digits and went into the fourth up 93-81.

Both teams were a bit cold to start the fourth but the Pacers had more energy, particularly T.J. McConnell and he got a couple easy layups as he attacked the basket repeatedly. The lead was down to seven when Malone re-inserted Jokic in the lineup and it quickly went back to ten but McConnell continued to be a thorn in Denver’s side. He sparked an Indy run and at the halfway point of the quarter Denver’s lead was down to five. The intensity started to pick up noticeably with it becoming a playoff type atmosphere in Indianapolis. The Pacers ratcheted up their defense and ate away at the Nuggets lead. Aaron Nesmith took an easy drive to the basket to tie the game at 100 with about four minutes left. With just over three minutes to go Jokic got called for an offensive foul which Denver challenged and it was overturned after a loooong debate by the referees. Jokic nailed a three right after to take the lead but the game was headed for a tight finish. It was still tied when the game passed the final two minute mark but Jokic got lucky bounce for an easy bucket and Turner goaltended a Murray drive to put Denver in the driver’s seat going into the final minute. Indiana pulled within two and had a four second difference on the shot clock but Joker buried a three and the Pacers hopes in one fell swoop with four seconds left. Nuggets win another one, 114-109.

Best Matchup: Nikola Jokic vs Myles Turner

Jan 23, 2024; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) shoots the ball while Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner (33) defends in the second half at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Big night from the big men in this game. Jokic was classic MVP Jokic. He piled up the stats but more importantly he locked in during the fourth quarter. He was blocking shots, pulling down huge rebounds and hitting ice cold threes to finish off the Pacers. Turner was sort of the opposite story. In the beginning of the game he was absolutely killing the Nuggets, asserting his will in the paint. As the game wore on though he resigned to being a jump shooter and the Nuggets were all too happy to let him do that, including leaving him wide open for a three point attempt late in the game (he missed badly). You can’t blame Turner too much for fading late though, he got left on an island against Jokic a lot tonight and as we continue to see on this road trip that’s an incredibly tough ask of anyone.

Defense wins championships

It’s no secret why the Nuggets are now guaranteed a winning record on this road trip, the defense has been outstanding. After not bringing a full 48 minute effort on defense against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Nuggets are locked in with three straight games holding their opponent under 110 points. Much like they did against the Boston Celtics two games ago, Denver took their defense to another level in the second half and in the third quarter in particular. Even Denver’s bench is surviving their minutes without Nikola more often because their defense has been top notch behind Watson, Christian Braun and even DeAndre Jordan who deterred shots and grabbed some timely rebounds. If Denver keeps up the defense in New York it’s going to be a great road trip.

KCP cashes the Thing to Bet

Kenny Pope had a monster third quarter that was a big part of the Nuggets taking control of this game and a big part of his quarter was back to back threes that swung the momentum all the way on to Denver’s side and also cashed the over on 1.5 threes in the game. He ended up taking six attempts in the game and honestly missed some easy ones so I’d keep watching this bet for plus money on the over.