Denver Nuggets 121, Indiana Pacers 106: Three takeaways

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

The Nuggets came alive in the fourth quarter to get back on track with a 121-106 victory over the Pacers.

It wasn’t as straightforward as Denver would’ve liked as the team saw a 20-point lead dwindle with the Pacers taking a lead in the third quarter. Still, the group responded with a dominant fourth quarter defensively as they held Indiana to just 15 points.

Nikola Jokić overcame some early offensive woes to lead the Nuggets with 32 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, and four steals. Malcolm Brogdon led the way for the Pacers with 24 points.

The Pacers deserve credit for fighting its way back, considering they arrived in the Mile High City just hours before tipoff due to the snowy conditions in Denver over the weekend. Fortunately for Michael Malone’s team, the home team seemingly found another gear in the final 12 minutes of the contest.

"That group of Facu [Facundo Campazzo], P.J. [Dozier], Will [Barton], Michael [Porter Jr.] and JaMychal [Green] to start the fourth, was terrific," Malone said after the game. "So that group started it us off and we closed it out with our starters. We needed that fourth quarter performance to get this win." 

Denver will now host exciting Rookie of the Year frontrunner LaMelo Ball and the Charlotte Hornets on St. Patrick’s Day (7 p.m. MT, ALTITUDE).

Here are the takeaways:

Sharing the love

The Nuggets struggled to get much rhythm against the Mavericks Saturday. Forty-eight hours later, the team had a more balanced approach against the Pacers.

Denver dished out 32 assists and had five players in double-digit scoring. This was a game where the starting lineup seemingly propped each other up offensively at various points of the game. With Jokić getting off to a slow start, shooting 4 of 13 in the first half, other players picked up the slack. Will Barton III’s sizzling run from downtown carried into this game as the veteran swingman connected on four threes to score 14 in the first quarter.

"[I was] just trying to get us off to a good start, play with energy on both ends, knowing if I come out with that mindset, good things will happen for me and the team," Barton III said. "I know usually Jok [Nikola Jokic] works his way into the game, and most of the time, teams are not ready to play from the beginning; most of the time anyway. So, I try to just get a head start." 

After Barton III cooled, Jamal Murray responded with a much-needed bounce back.

The 24-year-old tallied a combined 14 points in the second and third quarters and sparked his teammates as he dribbled past two defenders and had an eye-popping two-handed slam.

Jokić got going in the second half, helping the Nuggets ice the contest as he poured in 19 points. Michael Porter Jr. also continued his recent ascent as he finished the night with 20 points and eight rebounds on 9 of 15 shooting.

Dominant work on the glass and fourth-quarter defense

The balanced scoring is what will be on the highlights, but it was the battle of the boards that ultimately determined the game.

Denver crushed Indiana on the glass by a whopping 54-39 margin. Jokić led the charge with 14 boards, including an invaluable six offensive rebounds. This underlines just how valuable the Serbian is. Even on a night where he shot just 11 of 25, he remained effective due to his work on the glass along with five assists and four steals. The Nuggets had six players with at least four rebounds against the Pacers.

As good as the team was on the glass, it wouldn’t have sealed the win without an impressive defensive showing in the fourth quarter. The Nuggets held the Pacers to just 15 points in the final 12 minutes, locking in to contain their opponents to 25 percent shooting – including 0 of 5 from three.

JaMychal back to his best

JaMychal Green hasn’t had the best of luck since February as a combination of rotation changes and injuries have seen the forward struggle after a hot start to the season.

After averaging 10.8 points and shooting 47.1 percent from downtown in January, Green’s numbers dipped to 6.1 ppg and 30.8 percent from three in February before going down with an injury that sidelined him for eight games. Green got back to his best Monday and was a significant part of the Nuggets’ edge from downtown.

The 30-year-old forward hit 4 of 6 from three and finished the night with 16 points and three boards on 60 percent shooting. This was a confident, gritty showing from the veteran.

 “It's how I came into the league. Just come in, grind, earn my minutes, play hard and play my role, and do what I have to do to help the team win," Green said.

With the bench trying to find some momentum with some players still out with injury, this is something the Nuggets can hopefully build on. Overall, the team shot 53.6 percent from three.

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