Hot Pacers host Nuggets
INDIANAPOLIS — Just in his third season, Indiana center Myles Turner is longest-tenured Pacers player.
Turner said the team chemistry is the best it’s been since he arrived as a first-round pick out of Texas.
“Everybody’s energy is just incredible,” Turner said. “I mean, there is really never an off-day. Someone’s always bringing energy.”
Turner said it could be seldom-used veteran Al Jefferson or leading scorer Victor Oladipo providing the motivation.
“That’s what I love about this locker room,” Turner said. “Someone, somewhere is going to get us up somehow.”
The Pacers (15-11) will play host to the Denver Nuggets (14-11) Sunday night.
The Pacers have won the first three games of their six-game homestand, including ending Cleveland’s 13-game winning streak with a 106-102 victory on Friday night.
“When you knock off a top team like that, it’s obviously great for your morale and your confidence,” Turner said. “They’re in our division, division rivals, it was a good win.”
Oladipo led the Pacers with 33 points.
“(Oladipo’s) confidence is at an all-time high, he knows how good he is,” Pacers guard Cory Joseph said. “He’s a confident guy. Everybody in the locker room and the whole organization welcomes that.”
Joseph said it helps that there are no selfish players on the team.
“Everybody genuinely wants to see the other one do well,” Joseph said.
The Nuggets are coming off a 103-89 triumph at Orlando on Friday.
“We had great energy, great productivity and great efficiency,” Denver coach Michael Malone said.
The Nuggets bench outscored the Magic bench, 53-16.
“The story of the game was defense,” Malone said. “Dallas, we didn’t have defense. New Orleans, we didn’t have defense. We held that team to 89 points, 39 (percent) from the field and 23 from the 3-point line. We loved our defense. We hope that can become more consistent.”
Malone said the team came into the game with the right mindset, understanding the importance of playing defense and showing discipline in guarding the Orlando players.
“The challenge is to bring the same mindset to Indiana,” Malone said. “It’s more of a mindset of ‘I’m not going to allow this man to beat me continuously that easily.’ If we are going to get beat, it has be hard and make them feel us.
“We saw a much different mindset (Friday). We embraced the challenge and realized for us to get back on the winning track, we have to start defending a lot better.”
The Nuggets will be without injured starters, power forward Paul Millsap and center Nikola Jokic.
Millsap, who averaged 15.3 points in 16 games, is expected to be out for three months after a recent surgery.
Jokic, the team’s second leading scorer at 15.5 points per game, will miss his fifth consecutive game with an ankle injury. Malone is optimistic Jokic can play soon.
Will Barton leads the Nuggets’ balanced attack at 15.9 points per game. Gary Harris, from the Indianapolis suburb of Fishers, averages 15.1 points for Denver.
Pacers point guard Darren Collison is listed as questionable after aggravating a knee injury Friday night. Collison said “we’ll see” when asked if he would be able to play Sunday.