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Nuggets squander 31-point lead, still beat Pacers

Sportsnaut
Mar 30, 2022; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) shoots the ball while Indiana Pacers forward Justin Anderson (10) defends in the first half at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Denver’s Nikola Jokic had 37 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists and the Nuggets recovered after blowing a 31-point lead to beat the Indiana Pacers 125-118 on Wednesday in Indianapolis.

Bones Hyland scored 13 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter for Denver (46-31), which won its third game in a row. Will Barton had 18 points, DeMarcus Cousins and Monte Morris scored 11 each and Aaron Gordon added 10.

Goga Bitadze had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Pacers (25-52), who dropped their fifth consecutive game. Buddy Hield scored 20, Terry Taylor had 18 points and nine rebounds, Jalen Smith and Tyrese Haliburton scored 15 apiece, Justin Anderson finished with 13 and Keifer Sykes had 10.

Denver led 50-19 early in the second quarter, but the game was close in the first five minutes of the fourth, with neither team leading by more than two early. Indiana took a 102-100 advantage shortly after Austin Rivers was ejected, but the Nuggets responded.

Gordon and Hyland made layups and Jokic’s three-point play and two free throws spurred an 11-2 run that put Denver ahead 111-104 with 4:44 remaining.

The Pacers got within five twice, but Jokic made three free throws, Gordon hit a 3-pointer and Hyland put back his own miss to make it 121-112 with 1:05 left, and the Nuggets closed it out.

Denver raced out to a big lead early, going ahead 43-15 after shooting 68 percent in the first quarter.

The Nuggets were up 60-38 before Indiana scored 15 of the last 22 points of the second quarter to trail just 67-53 at halftime.

Morris made a 3-pointer to give Denver an 81-65 lead with 7:38 left in the third quarter. Anderson then scored five quick points, Hield hit a 3-pointer, Bitadze made a layup and a 3-pointer and Taylor’s reverse layup capped a 17-2 Indiana run that made it 83-82.

Jokic made a hook shot, but Haliburton’s dunk and layup gave the Pacers their first lead of the night, 86-85. Indiana led 91-89 before Hyland made a layup at the horn to tie the game heading into the fourth.

–Field Level Media