INDIANAPOLIS — The Denver Nuggets surrendered a 19-point first-half lead and then collapsed late against the Indiana Pacers in a 126-116 overtime defeat to fall to 1-3 on this six-game road trip.
Here are eight takeaways from the victory:
1. Subtle shots? Nuggets coach Michael’s Malone’s overall tone during his postgame remarks was calm, applauding his shorthanded team’s effort despite faltering late. But he threw a couple (unprompted) subtle jabs at the officials without downright blasting them, using the free-throw discrepancy between Victor Oladipo (13) and Gary Harris (two) as an example. Overall, Indiana went 18-of-22 from the stripe and Denver went 13-of-16.
“(There were a) couple of tough calls against us that I didn’t necessarily agree with,” Malone said. “But those are the breaks of the game, especially when you’re on the road.”
2. Turnovers reappear. The silver lining of this road trip thus far had been the decreasing turnovers, with seven against Dallas, nine against New Orleans and 12 against Orlando. But Sunday the Nuggets committed 22, their second-highest total of the season, for a whopping 34 points. The biggest culprits with four apiece were Gary Harris (in 44 minutes), Kenneth Faried (in 32 minutes) and Emmanuel Mudiay (in 15 minutes).
3. Key stats. The Pacers blasted the Nuggets 62-40 in the paint and had a 17-13 edge on fastbreak points. Denver outrebounded Indiana 47-40, including 19 offensive rebounds that led to 27 second-chance points. However, both the Nuggets and Pacers had seven offensive rebounds and 13 overall rebounds in the second half.
4. Career nights. Victor Oladipo dropped 47 points Sunday, the second (prominent) player to set a new career-high against the Nuggets. New York’s Kristaps Porzingis scored 38 against the Nuggets in late October at Madison Square Garden. Some more reaction on Oladipo’s big night:
Harris: “He’s doing it all. He’s taking what the defense gives him. We can’t go over (screens), because he’ll get downhill. If you go under, he’s gonna shoot. It’s tough. He played a hell of a game.”
Will Barton: “Confidence, confidence, confidence. Aggressive. Give him credit. Hell of a performance.”
Malone: “We tried everything tonight, and obviously he still was able to get what he wanted.”
5. Not having it. Malone thought his players were fatigued down the stretch. Players said that shouldn’t have mattered.
“You can’t use being exhausted as an excuse,” Harris said. “We still should have won the game. That’s all I gotta say.”
6. Lonely work. Injured standout center Nikola Jokic, who missed his fifth consecutive game with a sprained left ankle, was back on the floor doing some individual basketball work during pregame warm-ups. But he was kicked off the floor prematurely because a local dance group was set to perform.
7. The more you know. The Nuggets are now 0-1 when winning the opening tipoff this season. That happened for the first time Sunday.
8. Indy. This was my second time visiting in Indianapolis, after covering Oregon State in the Women’s Final Four here in 2016. I like that downtown is very compact and walkable, making it a terrific event city. But, it was quite jarring to go from 70-degree weather in Orlando to freezing temperatures and light snow in a matter of hours. The environment inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse was solid. Apparently, the Pacers have not gotten great fan support so far, even with their surprisingly fast start. But the announced crowd of 14,597 was rowdy down the stretch and in overtime.