On November 9th, the Nuggets gave up 144 points in a loss to the Pacers after fumbling away a tough game in Chicago the night before. Regardless of fatigue, it was an embarrassing performance in which Indiana dominated throughout and made their first 20 shots in a 54 point third quarter. Tonight the Nuggets got their opportunity for revenge, with the Pacers on the second game of a back to back this time as their road trip comes to a close in Denver. After a slow start, the Nuggets pass the ball and shoot lights out behind Melo’s 36 points to pay back Indiana with a blowout of their own.
This year the Nuggets have moved to a more traditional pick and roll defense and avoided switching everything for the most part. Tonight the Nuggets insisted on switching screens early resulting in a bevy of scoring opportunities for Roy Hibbert and Tyler’s Hansbrough. On the other end, the Nuggets were forcing it against Indiana’s solid interior defense and couldn’t put the ball in the hole. The Pacers jumped out to an early lead by controlling the boards and attacking the rim often against mismatches. Through some combination of fatigue and inexperience, the Pacers quickly stopped pressing their advantage and the Nuggets finally got into a rhythm offensively.
Chauncey kept the Nuggets afloat through a slow first quarter, and after a bad performance against LA the Nuggets bench came alive in the second. Without Melo and Chauncey, the Nuggets started the quarter on a 19-10 run and seized back momentum. Lawson’s speed again was a huge factor, forcing the Pacers into quick shots and turnovers on a night they looked sluggish and fatigued. With Hibbert and Hansbrough resting, Nene asserted himself in the paint and dominated. It really only took a few strong defensive plays and forced turnovers in the second that sapped all the energy Indiana had left.
In the third quarter, the Nuggets continued passing the ball and pushing the pace in their favor. Pacers coach Jim O’Brien elected to start rookie Paul George in the second half and had him defend Carmelo. That was a bad choice. Melo abused him off the dribble and caught fire from deep – scoring five three threes and 23 points total in the third quarter alone. Oddly enough,Indiana continued to let him shoot in from range, but the game felt like garbage time by then and to be fair Melo is only shooting 25% from deep this season.
It was a routine and much needed win for Denver as they embark on a five game eastern road swing. After a bad start it was nice to see Denver adjust and shut down Indiana’s easy scoring down low, outscoring them 44 to 22 points in the paint by the end.
Additional Game 43 Nuggets
- Tyler Hansbrough is an impressive player who brings an Arron Afflalo like hustle every minute he’s on the floor. He went straight at Melo in the post and routinely outhustled Kenyon and Nene on the glass. During Indiana’s awful third quarter he was the only one fighting back and keeping this one from getting real ugly. He finished with 27 and 10, including 5 offensive boards and making 7/9 from the foul line.
- Danny Granger was a non factor and left the game in the third with a mild ankle sprain. He wasn’t aggressive from the start and like a few other players looked a half step slow as Indiana winds down their 4 game road trip
- Former Nugget Dahntay Jones was inactive and seems to have been Renaldo Balkman’d by Indiana. After a signing a four year $11 million dollar contract following a strong one year stint in Denver, he’s only appeared in 8 games this year.
- The Nuggets limit themselves to ten turnovers and force 14 on Indiana. When the Nuggets pass and take smart shots as they did tonight, they’re nearly unbeatable. It’s a double edged sword that gives Denver a lot of blowout wins at home but precludes them from ever giving a full four-quarters of defensive effort.