The Indiana Pacers again have proven they can beat any team in the league on their home court.
Jarrett Jack had 28 points and eight assists, Troy Murphy had 22 points and 18 rebounds and the Pacers beat the Denver Nuggets 100-94 on Sunday night.
Indiana has defeated the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston, Cleveland, Orlando and now, Denver, at Conseco Fieldhouse. That leaves San Antonio as the only current division leader the Pacers haven’t beaten.
“I think we have a great fear of really getting embarrassed out there against some of these top teams,” Murphy said. “For whatever reason, against some of the teams that have a couple more losses, we play down to the level of the competition.”
Chauncey Billups led the Nuggets with 27 points and seven assists. Carmelo Anthony scored 20 points, but was 8-for-24 from the field, and Nene added 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Denver, which leads the Northwest Division, was coming off a win over the Lakers on Friday. Billups didn’t feel the Nuggets underestimated the Pacers, who are 19-11 at home and are playing well without injured All-Star Danny Granger.
“I don’t think there was a letdown,” he said. “We came in focused. Obviously, this team is difficult, especially in this building. They get to running and gunning, and they’ve got guys that can really make plays. Although they’re without some of their good players, they’ve got other guys that are playing well and making plays.”
Jack is one of those players. He scored a career-high 33 points against New York on Feb. 23, and is averaging 24 points in his past four games.
“He’s been huge, especially with all the injuries we’ve had,” Murphy said. “He’s a guy who’s able to step in and play multiple positions, he gets the ball to the basket, he makes big assists and plays tough defense. He’s been great for us all year, off the bench, starting. He does really whatever we need.”
Murphy also has been playing better than usual. He has seven consecutive double-doubles and has averaged 19.3 points and 15.4 rebounds in those games.
Denver’s high-scoring offense was held in check by a team that ranks near the bottom of the league in scoring defense. The Nuggets shot 36 percent from the field overall, scored 12 points in the second quarter and were outscored 32-19 in the fourth quarter.
“Our team should never have a 12-point quarter,” Denver coach George Karl said. “We reverted back to not making the extra pass, not finding the open man.”
Indiana led 45-41 at halftime after holding the Nuggets to 33 percent shooting before the break. The Nuggets hit two 3-pointers in the final minute of the third period to take a 75-68 lead into the fourth.
Indiana fought back, and a layup by Daniels gave the Pacers a 79-78 lead with just over eight minutes to play.
The Pacers extended the lead on two key plays by Murphy. On the first one, he caught a deflected pass and made a bank shot as the shot clock expired. The next one was a 3-pointer that gave Indiana a 90-84 lead with 4:35 to go.
Indiana led 92-86 and got offensive rebounds twice with the shot clock near zero before Marquis Daniels drained a baseline jumper that pushed the lead to eight.
“Indiana never quit,” Karl said. “They had three or four bounces that were incredible.”
Jack made a 3-pointer from the left corner as the shot clock expired to make it 97-88 with 1:38 to play. Billups made a layup to make it 98-94, then Daniels turned the ball over. Smith missed everything on a 3-pointer, and Jack made two free throws to close out the game.
Denver was 13-0 on the road when leading at the end of the third quarter, and 31-1 overall.
“We stayed in the game, we didn’t let the score dictate how we played the next possession,” Jack said. “No matter what the score was, we stuck with the game plan and that was the thing that got us back into the game and eventually brought us to the win.”
The Pacers were called for two technicals in the first half—one on T.J. Ford in the first quarter in response to a foul by Denver’s Dahntay Jones, and one on coach Jim O’Brien for arguing with officials in the second quarter. … Indiana G Travis Diener sat out with the flu. … Denver’s 41 points in the first half was one of its lowest totals of the season. Its worst was 37 points on Feb. 23 against Boston.
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