The Denver Nuggets might be losing a home game at Pepsi Center, but the way they are playing, switching venues might be a good thing.
Even if it is across the Atlantic Ocean.
The Nuggets, losers of five straight, “host” the Indiana Pacers at the O2 Arena in London on Thursday. The NBA Global Game counts as a home game for Denver, and that might be true — in a way. Four players on the roster are from Europe, so this is as close to an NBA home game for many of those players.
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“It will be a true honor and a great experience to represent both the Nuggets and the NBA in London as part of the NBA Global Games in 2017,” forward Danilo Gallinari, who is from Italy, told the team website. “Our entire team and organization are looking forward to this opportunity to showcase our league to fans overseas.”
This is the seventh regular-season NBA game to be played in London and the first since last Jan. 14, when the Toronto Raptors beat the Orlando Magic.
The Pacers (20-18) are trending in a different direction than the Nuggets (14-23). Indiana has won five straight, thanks in part to a commitment to share the ball. The Pacers recorded at least 23 assists in each of the past seven games to move above the .500 mark.
Point guard Jeff Teague has been the catalyst in the recent success. He had 17 assists in a win over the Chicago Bulls on Dec. 30 and added a double-double with 21 points and 15 assists in a victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Jan. 5.
The recent winning streak has the Pacers feeling good, and they are enjoying their time in London. They went sightseeing to noted tourist attractions such as Big Ben and Westminster Abbey and dined at Kensington Palace.
Once the ball tips at 8 p.m. local time Thursday, the Pacers plan on being all business.
“We don’t want to lose sight of what this trip was about,” Paul George told The Indianapolis Star before the team’s practice Wednesday in London. “This trip is to come over here and win a game. It just so happens we play it here in London. That’s really what that focus has been, to keep this groove going.”
While Indiana wants to keep grooving, the Nuggets want to get out of their rut. They had predictable losses during the streak to the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs, but home losses to the Philadelphia 76ers and Sacramento Kings have hurt their dream of making it to the playoffs for the first time in four years.
They will need to play better defense if they want to snap their skid. The Nuggets have allowed opponents to score an average of 123.8 points the past five game, with all five opponents scoring at least 120 points.
“We can’t be a team that just relies on our offense to pick up our defense,” Denver coach Michael Malone said after a recent loss. “We have to bring our defense every night regardless if you’re making shots.”
Denver players also toured London, taking in the sights between practices. The Nuggets should be close to full strength if Nikola Jokic has recovered from the illness that kept him out of the Saturday loss at Oklahoma City and if Kenneth Faried’s back holds up.
They will need everybody if they want to stop two streaks in London — their losing streak and Indiana’s winning streak.
“It’s definitely getting frustrating,” Denver forward Wilson Chandler said. “We’ve got to figure out some way to get out of it, and it’s going to be on the defensive end.”