(AP) — The Denver Nuggets’ latest surge has come with solid play on both ends of the floor
While defense has been a staple of the Indiana Pacers, it wasn’t up to their standards in back-to-back defeats.
Denver seeks a 10th victory in its last 12 games and a fourth straight win over visiting Indiana on Monday night.
The Nuggets (27-18) rank among the league leaders with 103.6 points per game and are averaging 110.1 over their last 11. Ty Lawson scored 26 points and Andre Iguodala added 20 in a 121-93 win over Sacramento on Saturday.
Though the offense has been impressive, Denver also has played well on the defensive end in the last two contests, including Wednesday’s 105-95 win over Houston. The Nuggets forced 43 turnovers in those victories, and have forced at least 20 in four straight contests.
“We came out aggressive and it started with our defense,” Kenneth Faried told the team’s official website after Saturday’s victory. “That really set the tone. That really ignited our offense and showed how we play Nuggets basketball.”
Faried had 11 points as all five starters scored in double figures for the first time in seven games.
“I can’t deny the starters deserve a lot of credit,” coach George Karl said. “Our bench has been great but (the starters) were playing well offensively and defensively and made the game easy.”
The Nuggets also played solid defense as Corey Brewer and JaVale McGee scored 20 points apiece off the bench in a 92-89 win at Indiana on Dec. 7, their third straight victory and 13th in the last 16 meetings in the series.
The Pacers allow only 89.9 points per game to rank among the league leaders, and had allowed fewer than 100 in 12 straight before their last two. They fell 100-80 at Portland on Wednesday before Saturday’s 114-110 overtime loss at Utah.
It marked the first back-to-back losses for Indiana (26-18) since it fell to Oklahoma City two nights after it lost to Denver last month. It is on the verge of matching its season-worst losing streak set Nov. 5-9.
“We have to tighten the screws on defense,” coach Frank Vogel said. “We put 90 percent of our emphasis into riding the ship on the offensive end (Saturday). You reach a point where you realize you have to tighten the screws. It’s tough to beat good teams in their buildings when you aren’t tied together on defense.”
David West scored a team-high 24 points versus Utah, but was disappointed in the lack of a defensive presence from himself and his fellow frontcourt players.
Indiana has allowed an average of 55.0 points in the paint over the last two games – 19.6 above its league-best average.
“Our defense has been solid all year. In particular, the last couple of games it has been (the opponents’) big guys that have gotten going,” West said. We didn’t do enough at the hoop. We’ve been playing good team defense, we just abandoned that the last couple of games. We just need to get a little more active.”
Paul George scored 22 points in the last meeting for Indiana, which has lost six of the last seven matchups in Denver.