The first quarter in this game started like both teams were absolutely entranced by the Indiana nightlife — missed shots and turnovers were the norm. However, the Nuggets turned it around very quickly and found a rhythm after Michael Porter Jr. got them started with 5 points early. The Nuggets forced Indiana to take an early timeout and found themselves up 10-3 before the 8 minute mark.
After the timeout, the ball movement became infection. The Nuggets were throwing dimes and even though they weren’t shooting as well as they normally do, they still were scoring in droves. Indiana started scoring a bit more too though, with Tyrese Halliburton scoring multiple threes from beyond the arc. The two benches exchanged blows and ended the quarter with the Nuggets having a 35-27 lead. It was spearheaded by Nikola Jokic having 10 points and 3 assists, followed by Michael Porter Jr. having 7 points.
To start the second quarter the second unit was manhandled by Bennedict Mathurin. He took what was at one point a double digit lead and quickly turned it into a Pacers lead. Bones Hyland was struggling with finishing inside the arc, which has been a pattern all season — but the bench goes as far as he goes and he was pretty bad to start this one. By the time the Pacers forced the Nuggets into a timeout at the 9:25 mark of the quarter, he was shooting 1 for 5 from the field. The Nuggets needed more from their second unit.
Unfortunately for them, they didn’t get that and shortly after Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Aaron Gordon, and KCP subbed in, Nikola Jokic picked up his third foul and fourth fouls of the game in quick succession. After that, the game just went downhill. Mathurin continued to light the Nuggets up, having 23 first half points in just 13 minutes. Tyrese Halliburton also had 13 points and 6 assists. Aaron Gordon lead the Nuggets in scoring with 11 points, but the Nuggets just didn’t look good on either end of the floor. They were a mess and were down 56-70 at halftime.
Coming out of the half, the Nuggets were looking to set a strong tone and get back into the game, but the exact opposite happened. Nikola Jokic picked up his first foul in 58 seconds, and the entire game fell apart. The Nuggets tried to find things that worked, but nothing did. The Pacers kept scoring, the Nuggets didn’t score enough. They needed someone to step up, but no one did. Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray both didn’t provide a spark — the Nuggets just looked lost.
That was until Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit three 3 pointers in quick succession. After that, the defense intensified and the Nugget found themselves a second wind. After being down by as much as 18, the Nuggets brought it back down to 6 to end the quarter thanks to Bones and KCP.
The fourth quarter started in much of the same way that the third quarter ended, and the Nuggets kept pace. Despite Bennedict Mathurin continuing to score, they were able to keep pace with the Pacers thanks to Michael Porter Jr. hitting a three and things went from there. The Nuggets were able to cut the lead down to 5 by the time Joker checked back in and once that happened, the Nuggets came back and after some late game heroics from Joker and Jamal Murray, the Nuggets ended up pulling this one out 122-119 .
This was a gutsy win with standout performances from all of the starters and Bones Hyland. The six of them all scored 15 or more. Aaron Gordon also pulled down 16 rebounds, Jamal Murray and MPJ were crucial, and KCP was the one who brought the game back. This game showed a different approach than what would’ve happened last year. The Nuggets hold on and win their fourth straight.