Indiana Pacers at Denver Nuggets (-5.5, 194.5)
The Denver Nuggets are expected to be one of the NBA's most dangerous teams over the next ten days. That doesn't bode well for the Indiana Pacers, who wrap up a four-game road trip against a Nuggets team that has been devastating in its own arena. Denver improved to 17-3 at home with a 121-93 trouncing of the Sacramento Kings on Saturday. It was the first of a six-game homestand for Denver, which boasts the league's best rebounding totals and one of its highest-scoring offenses.
The Pacers have had defensive prowess on their side for most of the season, but it has abandoned them of late. Indiana has surrendered at least 100 points in back-to-back games after holding teams to double digits in its previous 12 contests. A fourth-quarter rally gave way to a listless overtime period last time out as the Pacers dropped a 114-110 decision to the Utah Jazz. It's the second of two meetings between the clubs this season, with Denver prevailing 92-89 in their first encounter Dec. 7.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Indiana, Altitude (Denver)
ABOUT THE PACERS (26-18): It's easy to see what Indiana coach Frank Vogel thinks his team needs to improve upon moving forward. "We have to tighten the screws on defense,'' he said following the loss to Utah. "We put 90 percent of our emphasis into riding the ship on the offensive end (Saturday). You reach a point where you realize you have to tighten the screws. It's tough to beat good teams in their buildings when you aren't tied together on defense.'' Even with an improved defensive effort, the Pacers will be in tough at the Pepsi Center, having dropped six of their last seven games there.
ABOUT THE NUGGETS (27-18): Denver may not be able to match Indiana's defensive intensity, but it won't need to if it continues to score at will. The Nuggets have averaged nearly 116 points during their three-game winning streak to move into fourth in the league at 103.6 for the season. Two of the teams ahead of them - Oklahoma City and Houston - were outgunned by the Nuggets during the streak, which could continue to grow with Denver hosting the Pacers, Rockets, New Orleans Hornets, Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls before hitting the road for four in a row beginning Feb. 9.
* Over is 5-0 in the last five meetings in Denver.
* Over is 5-0 in Nuggets’ last five home games.
* Nuggets are 14-3 ATS in their last 17 vs. NBA Central foes.
* Pacers are 1-7 ATS in their last eight road games vs. a team with a winning home record.
1. The Nuggets have lost six games when leading after the third quarter, the second-most in the Western Conference.
2. Denver's 71 first-half points against Sacramento set a season high.
3. Indiana has allowed 100 or more points eight times, the fewest in the East.