Jared Wade: Controversy Masks What Was a Troubling Game – and Road Trip
Like the loss in Utah
, the Pacers could have won this game. Given the back-to-back
controversial calls that favored the Nuggets on the game’s final two possessions, it isn’t
unreasonable to think the Pacers should have won this game.
But I’m not really hearing all that.
Indiana, again, did not play all that well in a building in which it is tough to win unless
you play well. From the outset, Denver’s biggest key to the game was fulfilled as the
Nuggets forced the Pacers to play at their pace. Indiana was willing and went against
character by spreading the offense and launching shots from deep. They were making
‘em, too, hitting 6 of their first 12 from long distance in the game’s first 18 minutes.
They were up 45-41, but this team doesn’t normally shoot like this (no team does), so
Denver had to feel good about its chances given how easily they were scoring in the
paint — a place that is usually a verboten scoring zone when playing this Indiana team.
The final six minutes of the half saw the score start to go Denver’s way. The pace of
the game and Denver’s insistence on bombarding the lane started to shape everything
that was happening on the court.
The Pacers stopped hitting shots (going 3-for-10 in the final six minutes of the half),
and the Nuggets kept diving to the hoop. They got to the line, first cutting into Indiana’s
lead and then taking one of their own as their athletic wing players scored free points
at the charity stripe.
Of all the teams in the NBA, the Nuggets score far and away the most points per game
in the paint. It is a staggering disparity between them (56.2 points in the paint per
game) and the number-two Clippers (46.7). Meanwhile, no team in the NBA allows
fewer points in the paint than the Pacers (which allow a mere 35.7 points in the paint
Something had to give. Spoiler alert: It was Indiana’s defense.
It tells us a lot that the Nuggets were able to score 30 points in the paint in the first
half. Not only is that more than half of what they normally produce, but it is nearly the
entire game-long total that the Pacers usually let up.
Looking at these numbers, there is little else to conclude than this: one team was
maintaining its normal identity in this game and one team was completely unable to
exert its game plan on the opponent.
The third quarter was more of the same.
The first numbers need no context: Indiana shot just 8-for-21 (38.1%) while Denver
made 12-for-22 (54.5%).
The more interesting aspect is not makes or misses; it is the quality of shots the two
teams got. Denver took 11 shots in the paint, including 8 in the restricted area. They
made 5 of these 8 at the rim, and 1 of these misses came only due to a spectacular
block by Paul George on what seemed to be a sure dunk for Danilo Gallinari on the
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