DENVER, CO – Desperate for a win to keep up in the Western Conference playoff race, the Denver Nuggets (43-35) were able to scrap one together over the Indiana Pacers (46-32) on Tuesday.
Indy’s win streak ends at five, as Denver build leads and steered to the finish line in a 107-104 victory at the Pepsi Center.
As for the Eastern Conference playoff standings, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Philadelphia 76ers continue to make life harder for the Pacers.
Cleveland has now won nine of their past ten and have a two-game edge on the Blue and Gold for third. Philly’s winning streak is up to a whopping 11 in a row, leaving them a game and a half ahead of Indy for fourth.
Despite owning tiebreakers over both the Cavs and Sixers, time is running out for the Pacers in the race for home court. Only four regular season games remain.
Will Barton powered the Nuggets early on. Barton scored nine points in just over two minutes of play, helping Denver jump out to a quick 15-5 first quarter lead. The Pacers swiftly scored 11 of the next 14 points, pulling them right back into the ballgame. The Nuggets led after one, 27-26.
Each side struggled shooting a bit in the second quarter. At one point, the Blue and Gold went nearly seven minutes with only one field goal made. Indiana led by as many as five in the frame, but went into the break trailing. Jamal Murray buried a floater as time expired in the half, giving Denver a 49-46 edge.
The second half got off to a nightmarish start for the Pacers. Denver canned three consecutive triples to begin the third quarter, allowing the home team to expand their lead to 58-46. The Nuggets added another hoop to make it a 14-point margin, but Indy snapped back with ten unanswered points. Then, Denver rattled off ten of their own to go right back up by 14.
The Pacers got in the last run, however, continuing the barrage of sizable runs with a 15-5 spread to end the third. When the buzzer sounded, Indiana was only outscored by a single point in the frame and entered the fourth down 77-73.
Whistles became a problem for Indy in that final quarter, with the Nuggets in the bonus less than three minutes in. With Denver getting two free throws with every foul call the rest of the way, the Blue and Gold had to be careful on defense.
All in all, the Pacers just couldn’t get past Denver in this one.
Victor Oladipo began to show his usual heroics, throwing down slams after steals and nailing step back jumpers, but the Nuggets always had the answer. For example, after a couple of Thaddeus Young free throws brought Indiana within two points at the 3:55 mark, Murray connected on a huge three-pointer.
That shot turned out to be a dagger, as the Nuggets went on to see their lead balloon to 11. They won by three (Darren Collison made a three at the horn).
Oladipo led Indy in scoring with 25 (10-for-19 shooting). Young added a double-double with 15 points and ten boards.
Following a 3-1 road trip, the Pacers will be back in Indianapolis to face another squad from the West on Thursday. The defending champion Golden State Warriors, who should have some key starters back in the lineup following a loss to Indiana last week, will be at Bankers Life Fieldhouse for a 7:00 p.m. clash.