The Pacers came out of the gates playing about as good as they possibly can, opening up a 9-point lead on the way to a 35-point first quarter. Danny Granger was out his damn mind, sticking everything he took to score 18 in the opening period. AJ Price was dynamite off the bench as well. Then the wheels fell off. Or — better yet if we’re gonna use a stupid metaphor to explain it, which we are — Denver stole Indy’s Indy tires and started lapping people around the track.
The Nuggets floored the Pacers in the open court, flumoxing the limited transition defense they even attempted. With Ty Lawson and Corey Brewer pushing the action and those who were supposedly attempting to get back instead over-crashing the offensive glass, Denver ran off 16 fast-break points in the first half, according to ESPN, and was battering Indiana against the ropes. It felt like they were saved by the bell when the half-time buzzer sounded with the scored knotted at 60.
Just look at this second-quarter shot chart.
The Pacers started to slow down the Nugget break after the half but weren’t able to a capitalize. They missed 9 of the 11 jump-shots they attempted in the 3rd quarter and trailed by 3 heading into the final period despite Nene’s night ending with an injury. The second unit really hurt their chances as that deficit soon ballooned to 10.
As the starters made their way back in, Paul George got it going — finally — by drilling 3 threes over a 4-minute stretch, including back-to-back treys to bring Indiana within 4 points with 3 minutes to play. Collison got in on the comeback act with a great fastbreak finish plus the foul, but the defense let the team down. They just couldn’t finish plays even when they did execute. They forced Lawson into a tough, tough driving layup that he missed, but Roy Hibbert unnecessarily helped on the shot and nobody rotated down to box out Kosta Koufas, who tipped in the miss. After that, they played good-enough defense but Arron Afflalo drilled a three anyway. Thems the breaks and all, and it’s a good lesson that things often won’t work out if you drag your feet on playing well until it’s too late.
Credit goes to David West, who carried the offense throughout the fourth, for giving Indy one last hurrah by hitting a nice jumper and scoring at the rim on a shot during which he was fouled. But he blew the subsequent FT and then made a bonehead turnover when he kicked the ball out of the post to nobody and got whistled for a backcourt violation with his team down 2 and just 10 seconds left.
This was a fun one to watch, and much credit needs to go to Denver, which played excellent basketball and scored on possessions even when Indiana did play good defense. But just like that, everyone’s early-season darlings have dropped 3 straight and now have to play Miami next. Hopefully this is just a bump in the road and won’t mirror the same mid-season free fall that this franchise went into last season around the 20-game mark.
|David West – 32 MIN | 10-11 FG | 2-3 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 22 PTS |
Tough performance to grade. Obviously, the line and the efficiency is splendid. But he missed a FT that would have put Indy down just 1 with 48 secs to play (albeit on an and-one try) and then made a horrid turnover the next possession.
|Danny Granger - 35 MIN | 10-18 FG | 4-5 FT | 2 REB | 5 TO | 26 PTS |
Was unconscious early, dropping 18 in the 1st quarter on 7-for-9 shooting. Sloppy with the ball though and got exploited by Brewer very badly.
|Roy Hibbert - 35 MIN | 5-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 12 PTS |
Wasn’t really involved offensively. Certainly didn’t protect the rim as Lawson and Brewer had their way in the paint.
|Darren Collison - 31 MIN | 3-7 FG | 1-1 FT | 1 REB | 7 AST | 7 PTS |
Had the offense straight humming early — and throughout really. But got destroyed by Lawson all game long.
|Paul George - 34 MIN | 5-9 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 15 PTS |
Looked like he was on the way to another no-show offensive game before burying 3 treys in the fourth and leading the Paces comeback. He also put the clamps on Lawson, who shot 1-for-5 in the 4th, after taking on the assignment.
|Dahntay Jones - 13 MIN | 1-5 FG | 2-3 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 4 PTS |
Missed 4 of his 5 shots.
|Louis Amundson - 12 MIN | 0-1 FG | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS |
Didn’t do anything but pick up fouls and miss and alley oop dunk. But, oh, how did he miss it.
|A.J. Price – 17 MIN | 4-8 FG | 3-3 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 13 PTS |
Best scoring night of the year as he dropped all 13 of his points in the first half. Looked as confident as I’ve seen him shooting-wise since last year.
|Tyler Hansbrough - 18 MIN | 2-3 FG | 2-3 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS |
Nothing bad in particular but needs to produce more. Always. But especially without Hill.
|Lance Stephenson - 14 MIN | 2-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 4 PTS |
Sick steal/breakaway dunk and a highlight no-look pass to Dahntay in transition. Becoming quite the spark at times off the bench.