A game between the up-tempo Denver Nuggets and the grind-it-out Indiana Pacers on Monday night in the Pepsi Center will come down to imposing wills. Stylistic battles between two very different basketball teams make for a good show, and it helps when those two teams are equally successful.
The Nuggets (27-18) rank second in pace at 94.5 estimated possessions per 48 minutes, and they'll look to get in the open court against an Pacers (26-18) team that's second in the NBA in allowing just 89.9 points per game. Indiana's defense -- which has the second-best defensive rating in the league -- gets help by ball control that has turned in the third-slowest pace this season, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
Despite what any pace or points produced might indicate, the money is on Denver at home.
But the Pacers would certainly welcome a return to their season-long defensive efforts after dropping two straight games. Losses to the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz came after allowing the two teams to hit at least 53 percent of their shots and average 99 points in regulation.
Indiana was tied with the Jazz at 98 after four quarters and lost 114-110 in overtime, and it didn't help their defensive cause in turning the ball over 21 times.
Denver is on a three-game winning streak behind the usual offense and an impressive defense. The Nuggets have held the last two opponents under 100 points, and the first of those three games was a victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder in overtime.
Matchup to watch
Denver's leading scorer at 16.6 points per game, Danilo Gallinari, will have his hands full with first-time All-Star Paul George, who not only averages 17.4 points per game but is arguably a lock to become an All-NBA Defensive Team member this season.
The problem for the Pacers would be the likelihood that it's more necessary for George to have a big offensive game than Gallinari considering Denver's depth. The Nuggets could test that theory with swingman Andre Iguodala seeing time against George on defense.
Last time out
In the last meeting between Indiana and Denver, the Pacers got the score where they'd like but fell 92-89 at home. Denver uses a deep bench to keep players fresh and the tempo high, and in that Dec. 7 meeting, the Pacers didn't have the firepower to keep up with JaVale McGee and Corey Brewer scoring 20 points each off the pine to go with Andre Miller's 15.
Time: 9 p.m. ET
TV: Altitude Sports/Fox Sports Indiana
Odds: Denver opened as a 6.5-point favorite.