DENVER — Who are the Pacers? They’ve yet to figure that out since the All-Star break and Saturday’s result appears to be the new norm.
They led the Denver Nuggets by 18, quickly wasted it, trailed by double digits in the fourth quarter to tie it late but lose 102-100 on Paul Millsap’s go-ahead layup with seven seconds to go at Pepsi Center.
It ended their three-game win streak that included a come back from 19 to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder on a tip-in.
SUBSCRIBE: Get great Pacers coverage and more at a great price
“We don’t want to play from behind like that,” Myles Turner said before playing Denver. “We can’t put ourselves in positions like that coming down this tough stretch of the season.”
The Pacers (44-26) didn’t until the fourth quarter.
Nikola Jokic (26 points) kept the Nuggets (46-22) viable in a 36-point first quarter for Indiana when he scored 16.
It wasn’t until late in the second when Denver found its mark. They went on a 15-2 run to close the deficit to 60-57 at halftime.
The first culprit was familiar: offensive rebounds.
Jokic and Millsap (15 points, 13 rebounds) put back their own misses during the run as Barton made all three of his looks from 3.
In the beginning, the Pacers were efficient as Darren Collison (17 points, four assists) made 4 of 5 and Thaddeus Young (18 points, eight rebounds) knocked down 6 of 7.
That faded, however, as they weren’t able to make the slow-footed Jokic a liability on defense which is how Collison and Young found their rhythm.
The Pacers missed 9 of 11 shots to begin the third quarter, including open 3s for Bojan Bogdanovic (16 points), Wesley Matthews (seven points) and Collison from mid-range. They shot 5-for-20 but only trailed 79-75 entering the fourth.
It wasn’t until the Nuggets lost Jokic, who was ejected after a blow up with game officials about an offensive foul, that allowed the Pacers back in it.
Four made free throws, two each from Bogdanovic and Turner, cut the deficit to 96-93. Turner’s free throw tied the score at 100.
The Pacers can trail a losing team like the New Orleans Pelicans by 20 and come back to win as they did in their first game out of the All-Star break.
They can put up clunker such as the 117-98 loss at the Milwaukee Bucks on March 7. They can lead the Philadelphia 76ers in their next road game by 14, go 3-for-20 in the third, miss 15 foul shots in the game and lose 106-89.
Then there are games like Saturday’s. Bogdanovic’s 3-point shot just before the buzzer that could’ve won it didn’t fall. He missed all five of his shots from deep.
A loss but it represented a step in the right direction as they didn’t wilt on the road like in Philadelphia.
Of course, they shouldn’t have been in that position, either.
“Since the All-Star break, all games are significant,” Young said. “We’re fighting for seeding. We’re fighting for playoff position. We’re getting back to what we’ve been all season long. That’s resilient. We’re starting to get that mood back how we were in the early part of the season when we’ll be down and we don’t feel like we’re out of the game.”
Next up: The Portland Trail Blazers on Monday.
Published 11:49 PM EDT Mar 16, 2019