The Denver Nuggets started off the game with some really great defense, but couldn’t keep up that intensity for the whole game, losing to the Indiana Pacers on Sunday night.

Domantas Sabonis had a huge second half for Indiana, putting up a triple double with 22 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 assists, but the star of the game was Doug McDermott, who had 24 points, including a 6 for 7 performance from behind the 3-point line, powering a fourth quarter rally.

Nikola Jokic was incredible for the Nuggets, putting up 30 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists, with several assists left on the court with the team having a cold night shooting. The Nuggets missed 19 of their 22 3-point attempts in the game, and went 22 for 32 from the free throw line. That’s a lot of points they weren’t able to register on a night when they could have used a couple more of them.

The Nuggets started the game off by forcing the Pacers into a shot clock violation, with Jokic stymieing Domantas Sabonis in the post and Myles Turner letting loose on an air ball. Jokic got the first basket of the game by putting Turner in the spin zone, rolling into the paint for an easy layup. The team played with more of an up-tempo pace on offense, pushing the ball down the court, but they weren’t able to get any shots to fall, starting 2 for 9. The Nuggets defense was stout, keeping the Pacers off the scoreboard for the first four minutes of the game, with their first basket coming after a timeout from T.J. Warren.

MPJ checked in about halfway through the quarter, and both teams got comfortable shooting and started putting some points on the scoreboard. Warren had a strong sequence for the Pacers, knocking in two midrange jumpers and then swatting away a shot on a Porter Jr. drive. Barton had a nice drive for a lefty layup over Goga Bitadze, with the young center missing shots on the other end on the next two possessions. Barton was able to pick up another basket, getting to 11 points in the quarter, with a nice jumper in the paint, finishing off a really great start for the Nuggets guard. Denver held Indiana to just 15 points, and were able to take a six point lead into the second quarter. Jokic had nine points in the quarter, and the only other Nuggets player that scored was Jerami Grant, who had two points.

P.J. Dozier was able to get the first basket of the second quarter, getting into the paint against T.J. McConnell and taking advantage of the size difference for what was basically an uncontested jumper. Plumlee was able to take Sabonis off the court, getting an easy lay-in and then drew a charge on Sabonis on the other end of the court. The Nuggets defense continued to fly around the court, causing misses, grabbing rebounds, and getting steals. The Nuggets ran two plays for Plumlee alley-oops, and the Pacers couldn’t do anything to stop them except call timeout and adjust their defense.

The Pacers brought back a lot of their starters after a timeout, and they were able to claw their way back into the game after finding themselves down by seven points. Brogdon tried to post up Monte Morris, but Torrey Craig was able to rotate down for a block. Jokic was able to manufacture a trip to the free throw line against Myles Turner, reaching double digit points for the game. The foul must have inspired the Joker, because a minute later he was able to drive through a gap to the rim for his seventh dunk of the season. Jokic was dominant to close out the quarter, getting a couple more points as well as a nifty assist when he found Torrey Craig on a cut in transition.

Jokic was able to get the first seven points for the Nuggets to start the third quarter, knocking in a 3-pointer, working in the pick and roll with Barton, and then stepping back for a midrange shot against Turner. The rest of the team couldn’t get anything going on offense, with everyone missing shots, including a 3-pointer from Barton that drew nothing but air. Torrey Craig finally got something to fall, hitting a 3-pointer from the left wing to put the Nuggets up by seven points. There was a flurry of baskets after a Pacers timeout, with Jokic continuing to just get whatever he wanted, as the Nuggets cleared the 70 point threshold. PJ Dozier had a really nice stretch, getting to the rim for a layup, finding Mason Plumlee with a really slick bounce pass into the paint, and then hitting a midrange jumper.

Dozier started the fourth quarter with an alley oop to Plumlee, with MPJ hitting two buckets in a row to stretch the lead to eight points. The Pacers made a fast run and tied the game at 91 all, and then Doug McDermott caught fire, putting Indiana ahead as the Nuggets kept missing shots. Sabonis put Indiana ahead for good with 90 seconds left in the game, and Denver let McDermott knock down another triple to put the game away on the next possession.

Next game

Monday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves, on the road.