Game Rewind: Pacers 144, Nuggets 113

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Pacers flirt with perfection, rout Nuggets


He didn't know.

When Josh McRoberts pulled up for that final shot of the third quarter, a 3-pointer that banged off the iron with 1.9 seconds left, he was unaware he had just become the Bill Buckner of Tuesday night.

Until that point, the Pacers were perfect, hitting all 20 of their shots – including eight 3-pointers – in rolling up a franchise-record 54 points in one of the most prolific periods in NBA history. Even so, their 20-of-21 shooting percentage of .952 will very likely turn out to be a league record, once the databases of the Elias Sports Bureau have been scoured and we find out officially.

With Mike Dunleavy scoring 24 of his 31 points in that outburst, the Pacers rolled to a 144-113 rout of the Denver Nuggets before 11,122 in Conseco Fieldhouse.

McRoberts said his teammates informed him of his streak-buster when he came to the bench at the end of the period.

"I would've pump-faked a few more times or maybe tried to pass it to Mike (Dunleavy)," he said, smiling. "It's a good record to screw up, I guess."

There was little to foretell what was coming; in fact, the first half ended ominously when Denver scored the final five points to cut a lead that had been as large as 18 to 59-49 at the break.

But the Pacers couldn't miss in the third and blew it open with 11 in a row in a span of 2 minutes, including consecutive 3-pointers from Dunleavy, Darren Collison and Danny Granger, pushing the lead to 85-61.

From there, the countdown – or countup – was on. Dunleavy made five 3-pointers in the streak, which reached 20 on Brandon Rush's 3-pointer with 27.9 seconds left. The Pacers got the ball back after a pair of Arron Afflalo free throws with 22 seconds left.

Even with McRoberts' miss, it was an epic performance. Almost as impressive as the hot shooting was the team's 17 assists against just one turnover.

In addition to establishing a franchise record for points in a quarter, the Pacers:

  • Tied the second-most points in NBA history in the third period;
  • Tied the fourth-most points in NBA history in any period (the all-time high is 58 by the Buffalo Braaves in the fourth quarter against Boston on Oct. 20, 1972);
  • Almost certainly set an NBA record for field goal accuracy in one period, and possibly for consecutive field goals made.

They also set a franchise record with 85 points in the second half and their final point total was the Pacers' most since scoring 145 against – you guessed it – Denver in 1991.

"That's as much fun as you can have on a basketball court," said Coach Jim O'Brien.

Dunleavy had been slumping so badly, O'Brien had considered replacing him in the starting lineup with Brandon Rush, who returned from a five-game NBA suspension and played well (16 points, seven rebounds). But Dunleavy not only kept his job, he cemented his grip.

"I knew my shots would eventually fall," Dunleavy said. "I just had to keep shooting and tried to get in the rhythm. It was contagious when I began to hit everybody did. In general we were due. We just had to break out. And tonight we did and we won big. "

The Nuggets (4-4), playing their fourth game in five nights, were shell-shocked.

"Dunleavy … I don’t know how many threes he hit in a row but it was like the old NBA Jam (video game)," said Ty Lawson. "He had the hot button."

He wasn't alone.

Collison scored 29 points on 12-of-14 shooting, including 4-of-5 from the 3-point line. Tyler Hansbrough was 9-of-12 for 20 points (and nine rebounds). Granger hit 8-of-10 for 19 points. Roy Hibbert had 17.

The Pacers shot 64.4 percent from the field, made 16-of-30 (.533) from the 3-point line, and racked up 37 assists.

"That was something," said O'Brien. "That’s a quarter of basketball that will be remembered for a long time."