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Baseline to baseline recap: Denver looks good against Indy. For whatever that’s worth.

Jan 24, 2011, 12:50 AM EDT

Carmelo Anthony

In the real game of the night, Ben Roethlisberger was making the kind of heady plays on the field he can never seem to make off it, plus Rex Ryan’s level of disgust on the sidelines was surprisingly entertaining.

But this is an NBA blog. And so our actual Game of the Night had to be the only Game of the Night:

Nuggets 121, Pacers 107: That score makes it seem closer and more interesting than it actually was.

Indiana fans should have known they were in trouble early on. Denver started out missing a series of layups and tip ins. Carmelo Anthony missed his first six shots. Indiana has six offensive rebounds in the first quarter alone. And yet the score was always close. Everything went right for the Pacers and they were up just three after one quarter.

Eventually things were going to start going wrong, eventually Nuggets shots would start to fall. And they did. Carmelo Anthony knocked down six three pointers in the third quarter (note to the Pacers: You may have wanted to close out on him a little better at some point) on his way to 36 points. He was so good he was not even booed after the game. Denver killed the Pacers by just knocking down their looks — they hit 15 of 22 spot up opportunities (according to Synergy Sports). The Nuggets also were strong in transition. The Pacers seemed to go to the post a lot but that was less effective and they didn’t have another gear to keep up with Denver’s scoring.

This was the kind of game some might point to and say that with Anthony the Nuggets are contenders in the West. They’re not. And we’re not saying that just because of how the Lakers dismantled them on Friday night (but that gave you some clues).

Denver has a powerful offense — they came into the game second in the league in offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions). But their defense is 20th in efficiency and that will not get it done. They won this one because they could just simply outscore Indiana — the Pacers finished with six more points per 100 possessions than they average on the season. The Pacers are not a good offensive team but they had a pretty solid night against Denver.

The Nuggets are fun while this lineup lasts. But they are not contenders. With this kind of defense they are a first round playoff exit under the best of scenarios.

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