Denver Nuggets at Indiana Pacers Recap
November 9th 2010
Al Harrington has been a key starter for the Nuggets early in the season. Denver’s biggest offseason acquisition is filling in for K-Mart admirably, and his presence at Power Forward may be the only thing keeping Carmelo Anthony in town.
Now Harrington has returned to Indiana, his basketball home for half of his 12-year NBA career. As impressive as Al has been early for the Nuggets, Denver hopes he will have an even stronger game against the team that ditched him for good after the ’06-’07 Season.
The Nuggets are playing their fourth game in five days, and they will need all hands on deck to out-duel a tall, scrappy Indiana crew.
The Pacers start off hot with sharp-shooting from Danny Granger & Darren Collison, who combine to score each of Indiana’s first 18 points. After giving up an early 9-4 lead, Indiana exploits Denver’s poor rebounding to pace the Nuggets through the first quarter.
Only a team commitment to taking shots from range keeps the Nuggets in the game. Denver even manages a 25-24 lead after Al Harrington buries a deep trey followed by consecutive triples from fellow offseason pickup Gary Forbes.
With such an enormous size disadvantage in the paint, the Pacers simply work the ball down low and score consistently on hooks, layups, dunks & second-chance looks throughout the first half. Denver depends on hack fouls and sparse rebounding on defense, and is limited to perimeter shooting on offense.
The first half ends with Indiana losing a third of their comfortable 15-point lead in the final two minutes. Denver finally swarms on defense and looks like the better team briefly in closing out the half down by only ten, 49-59.
The third quarter begins with the Pacers moving the ball efficiently and hitting open shots. The Nuggets are forced into taking tough shots as Indiana’s defense clamps down hard on Denver’s isolation-heavy offense.
The Pacers’ team play on both sides of the court work in stark comparison to the Nuggets’ focus on solo play. By the close of the quarter a simple stat line said it all…
The Nuggets were 10 of 25 from the floor, the Pacers were 20 of 21.
Indiana did not miss a single field goal in the third until an errant three to close the quarter, going 20 of 21 and building a crushing 76-113 lead. That looked enough like game over for George Karl to pull his Denver starters for a meaningless fourth quarter. Indiana coach Jim O’Brien followed suit, and the reserves play to an embarrassing 113-144 Pacers victory.
Indiana cruised to 54 points in the third quarter alone. Most of their 20 for 20 shooting streak came on open looks from range as the Nuggets collapsed into the paint. Denver was constantly cheating inside to make up for its height disadvantage, and the Pacers took advantage in a major way.
In the end, the most noteworthy difference between these teams was Indiana’s young talent versus Denver’s aging core.
The Pacers have drafted well in recent years, and the Nuggets have not drafted at all save their pick of Ty Lawson two years ago. With Denver trading away all of its draft picks to serve immediate needs, they have been forced to rely too much on free agent role players instead of building from within.
Tonight’s loss is a glaring example of how badly former Nuggets GM Mark Warkentien’s strategy has burned the Denver Nuggets.