A day after he was named an All-Star starter for the first time, Paul George led the Indiana Pacers to a dramatic comeback victory.
On Saturday night, George and the Pacers will look to continue their run of good fortune when they visit the Denver Nuggets.
George scored eight of his 36 points in overtime Friday, helping Indiana bounce back from a loss with its sixth win in seven games, 116-111 at Sacramento. The team rallied from a 17-point deficit, thanks in large part to a four-point play from George with 15.1 seconds remaining to tie the game at 103.
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"We feel good. Just another day at the office," said Roy Hibbert. "Paul got employee of the month. It took a real big heart to be able to hit that shot."
The league-leading Pacers (34-8) have done well for the most part against the Western Conference, going 12-3. However Indiana, which leads the league in opponent field-goal percentage and scoring defense, has been less than stellar on the defensive end the past two games. The team has allowed 124 and 111 points to Phoenix and Sacramento, respectively, two of its three highest point totals this year.
Over its last four games, Indiana is allowing 105.3 points per game on 43.1 percent shooting, increases on the 89.7 points and 41.1 percent opponents have posted throughout the course of the season.
The Nuggets (20-21) will try to avoid a fourth straight loss after blowing a 15-point lead in the third quarter en route to a 110-105 defeat at Portland on Thursday. Wilson Chandler scored a team-high 18 points but he missed a potential tying jumper in the final seconds.
"I think our offense, especially in the fourth quarter, failed us," said Nuggets coach Brian Shaw, a Pacers assistant from 2011-13. "I thought we had played a pretty decent game for a good 40 minutes, 42 minutes, maybe even more than that, 44 minutes of the game, but didn’t play a complete 48-minute game."
The Nuggets went 3 of 8 from the field in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter, the latest in a recent trend of late-game struggles for them. Denver is shooting 28.6 percent in the final three minutes of regulation, compared to 47.8 percent for opponents. Not surprisingly, the team has lost four of five.
Ty Lawson’s struggles have been reflective of the entire team. The point guard had 13 points and 11 assists against Portland, but he has been off lately from the field. Lawson has made just 3 of his last 17 attempts from 3-point range, a 17.6 percent average for a shooter that was making 37.3 percent from that distance during the team’s first 34 games.
Lawson was 0 for 4 from the field in the fourth quarter in the loss to the Trail Blazers, as Portland used 6-foot-8 Nicolas Batum to guard the 5-foot-11 Lawson.
"They put Batum on (Ty) to have a bigger body on him and I thought that affected us with him not being able to get as free and make as many plays," Shaw said. "The ball then just became stagnant. All the good movement that we had in the first half just left us in the second half."
The Pacers have lost four straight overall to the Nuggets and seven of eight visits to Denver.