Denver Nuggets continue to dominate Indiana Pacers

By Jeff Washburn, The Sports Xchange  |  March 25, 2017 at 8:28 AM
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The Denver Nuggets are making a late-season playoff run, and they have 22-year-old Serbian center Nikola Jokic to thank for it.

Jokic had 30 points and 17 rebounds, and Wilson Chandler added 24 points on Friday night, leading Denver to a 125-117 victory over the Indiana Pacers.

"(Aggressively) is how we play, to be honest," said Jokic, who made 12 of 18 field goal attempts and also handed out five assists. "When they don't score on us, we just rebound and go. We have so many good offensive players that we just need to go out and play.

"If we control the rebounds, we have a pretty good chance to win the game. I am all about rebounding, setting screens, scoring ... whatever it takes."

The Nuggets (35-37), who made 40 of 43 free throws, had to withstand a furious Indiana fourth-quarter comeback. Denver's 40-8 advantage in made free throws is the 13th largest differential in NBA history.

A Jeff Teague 3-pointer with 3:17 remaining pulled the Pacers within 111-103, prompting a Denver timeout. Teague scored again with 2:04 left to cut the deficit to six.

After two Denver free throws, Paul George sank a 3-pointer to pull Indiana within 113-108. But Jokic answered with a 3-pointer with 1:28 to play.

"I think that kid is the best passer right now at the five in the league," Indiana coach Nate McMillan said. "His basketball IQ seems to be just off the chart. We've compared him to Bill Walton back in the day. They are doing a good job playing off that."

George led the Pacers with 27 points, Teague added 21 and Myles Turner had 20. Monta Ellis came off the bench to score 17 points.

"You have to start the game with that aggressive play that we played with in the fourth quarter," McMillan said.

Denver has won nine of its past 13 contests and swept the two-game series from Indiana (36-36), which has lost two in a row and 10 of its 12 most recent games with the Nuggets.

"It's almost like you want to see what he does next," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said of rising star Jokic. "The guy is just a treat to watch, fun to play with and the scary thing is that he is only going to get better.

"For him to be playing at such a high level is a credit to him and his work ethic and the fact his teammates always are moving, allowing him to make those type plays."

Danilo Gallinari added 21 points and 11 rebounds for Denver, which outrebounded Indiana 46-39.

The Nuggets, who defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 126-113 on Wednesday night in Denver, continued to attack the struggling Pacers in the third quarter, increasing its 11-point halftime lead to 94-75 through three quarters.

Chandler had a 10-point third quarter and the Nuggets were 14 of 15 from the free throw line in extending their advantage to 19 points. Indiana was only 8 of 22 (36.4 percent) from the field in the third quarter.

The Nuggets shot 58.1 percent from the field (25 of 43) during the first half, getting 21 points and 12 rebounds from Jokic, who was 9 of 11 from the field and 3 of 3 from the free throw line in the opening 24 minutes while building a 64-53 lead.

Chandler had 12 first-half points for Denver and Gary Harris scored eight.

George led Indiana with 11 points and Ellis scored nine for the Pacers, who shot 48.1 percent from the field (25 of 52) in the first two quarters.

NOTES:

-- Indiana was without F/G Glenn Robinson III (sore left calf), which gave extra playing time to G Rodney Stuckey.

-- Denver G Gary Harris is a Fishers, Ind., native and a former Indiana Mr. Basketball from Hamilton Southeastern High School.

-- The Nuggets scored a season-high 140 points in a Jan. 12 victory over the Pacers in a game played in London.

-- While Denver's first half was impressive with 64 points, that effort was 15 points shy of the 79 they scored on Feb. 13 against Golden State.

-- This was the first of a three-game homestand for Indiana, which hosts Philadelphia on Sunday and Minnesota on Tuesday.

-- Denver came in leading the NBA in rebounding at 46.3 per game.

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