The Indiana Pacers (46-31) are ready for the playoffs to begin. The Pacers picked up a 111-104 win over the Los Angeles Clippers, their fifth straight win and their second over the Clips during that span. Victor Oladipo was once again sensational for the Pacers as he went for 30 points on 11-of-17 shooting, and added 12 assists with five steals. Meanwhile, big man Myles Turner finally snapped out of his recent scoring slump as he dropped 24 points on 9-of-15 shooting.
The Pacers now finish their four-game road trip against the Denver Nuggets (42-35), who pulled off a remarkable rally to beat the Milwaukee Bucks 128-125 in overtime on Sunday. Denver came back from seven points down in the final minute of regulation to force overtime and break Bucks hearts. Nikola Jokic was instrumental in the Nuggets’ win as he went off for 35 points and 13 rebounds. Jamal Murray added 27 points and seven assists, while Paul Millsap continued his terrific form of late with 26 points and 13 boards.
Three keys to the game
Victor Oladipo - Dipo just had his lowest-scoring month of the year in March, but he still found a way to end it on a high. He’s averaging 25.3 points and 6.3 assists while shooting a sizzling 58 percent from the field. The last time he faced the Nuggets earlier this season, he lit them up for a career-high 47 points with seven boards and six assists. Expect him to come out with a similar mentality to keep the Pacers’ momentum going.
Nuggets bigs - Speaking of that huge Oladipo game in December, the Nuggets’ starting frontcourt of Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap both missed out on that game. But both are in the lineup now, and they’re playing some stellar ball. Jokic is putting up 25 points and 12 rebounds per game over his last five games. Not to be outdone, Millsap is providing 27 points and nearly nine boards in his last three. The Pacers have had their problems against opposing bigs all season long, so this could be a good opportunity for the Denver frontcourt to dominate.
Wing battle - The Nuggets are pretty short on wings at the moment with both Gary Harris and Wilson Chandler out with injuries. Luckily, Will Barton has been on hand to step up, although he has struggled with his shot in two of his last three games. Barton will have a favorable matchup against the lead-footed Bojan Bogdanovic, which he must exploit if the Nuggets are to cool off the red-hot Pacers.
Matchup to watch
Myles Turner vs Nikola Jokic - With Jokic out, Turner turned in a stellar game the last time he faced the Nuggets as he delivered 24 points and eight rebounds. Those types of games have generally been few and far between for Turner, who has struggled with consistency this season amid knee issues. Jokic will obviously be a handful to contain on defense, but if he’s at his best, Turner has all the tools to trouble the Denver big man on both ends of the court.
Pacers projected starting lineup
PG - Darren Collison | SG - Victor Oladipo | SF - Bojan Bogdanovic | PF - Thaddeus Young | C - Myles Turner
Nuggets projected starting lineup
PG - Jamal Murray | SG - Torrey Craig | SF - Will Barton| PF - Paul Millsap | C - Nikola Jokic
As mentioned earlier, Oladipo had the greatest game of his career against the Nuggets. And given Denver’s continued struggles defensively - 120 or more points given up in three of their last four games - the odds of Oladipo lighting them up again shouldn’t be completely discounted. But apart from him, don’t discount Thad Young as well. Prior to his quiet eight-point night against the Clippers, Young went through a six-game span where he averaged 16.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 1.8 steals.
As for the Nuggets, Millsap and Jokic are the obvious target given how well they’ve been playing of late. But beyond those two, Barton will be worth a pick. He’s been playing some heavy minutes lately to compensate for the absence of Chandler and Harris, and he’s been putting up the corresponding numbers.
As good as the Pacers have been recently, the Nuggets have been even better at home. They have a lot more to play for than Indy, who should be feeling the effects of a long road trip by now. Take the Nuggets to win and cover the 3.5-point spread.
Denver once again protects home court as they beat the Pacers, 114-108.
This game will be broadcast on Altitude and Fox Sports Indiana. Tip-off is at 9:00 pm Eastern.