Indiana is currently in the midst of a five-game losing streak, and snapping it tonight in Denver could be a challenging task since the Nuggets are 21-3 at home this season. We’ll preview the game before reviewing my best bet for the match-up.
The last time the Indiana Pacers found themselves in the win column was on January 8th, which made their record 23-18. Fast forward to tonight, and the Pacers are now 23-23, on a five-game losing streak, and have played their last four games without leading scorer Tyrese Haliburton.
In the four games Haliburton has not been able to play, the Pacers' offensive efficiency rating of 106.7 is the second-worst in the NBA. During that span, Indiana also put up the worst effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage in the league. It was clear Haliburton was vital to this team, but this recent stretch has only amplified his importance in scoring and the offense's overall cohesiveness.
Defensively, his absence has also taken a toll on the Pacers, as their 119.9 defensive efficiency rating ranks 22nd in that span. Haliburton was leading the team with an average of 1.7 steals per game, and if there were a list of teams you would not want to face with a depleted defense, the Denver Nuggets would be at the top.
In their last ten games, the Nuggets rank second in offensive efficiency with a 122.1 rating, and they will enter on an eight-game win streak. Over their last ten games, Denver has scored 121 or more points in seven of those games and has a true shooting percentage of 62.2%.
Denver has not just gotten the job done on the offensive end of the floor, but over the same ten-game stretch, they rank 5th in defensive efficiency rating and have held opponents to a 46% field goal percentage. Limiting their opponent’s three-point shooting has also been a big reason for the win streak, as teams are shooting 29.8% from three over their previous ten games.
The point total for this game is currently listed at 240, and I’ll be taking the under as my best play in this one. The under is 14-8 this season when the Nuggets are a home favorite, and it is 18-13 when they have to play on one day’s rest. There has been only one other game this season where Denver has had a point total set at 240 or higher, and that was their most recent game, which went under that total.
It’s understandable why the number would be a bit inflated due to the Pacers' recent struggles, but the Nuggets have a real chance to limit Indiana’s offense to a point where it greatly hinders the total. The last time Denver played an offense ranked in the bottom third of offensive efficiency over the past ten games, they held them to just 97 points.
The Pacers have had to rely primarily on transition scoring since Haliburton went down. Although transition defense isn’t a strength of the Nuggets, over the past four games, they’ve held opponents to an average of 13.8 fast break points per game, the 14th-best average in the NBA. As long as Denver plays to their defensive abilities, then the Pacers will not be able to do enough to put the game over the total.