December 20, 2014

The Indiana Pacers have made their mark defensively under Frank Vogel, but shortcomings on both ends have them on the verge of matching their longest losing streak of the season.

That could be difficult to avoid given the team's track record against the Denver Nuggets.

An unhappy Paul George hopes the Pacers can break out of their funk Sunday night when they look to halt a six-game slide at the Pepsi Center in the opener of a four-game trip.

Indiana, which ranks in the NBA's top 10 defensively with 98.9 points allowed per game, had given up an average of 92.5 in regulation in a 10-game span before allowing more than 100 in back-to-back losses. The Pacers are 3-15 when allowing opponents to score 100 or more.

George was disappointed the Pacers gave the same lackluster performance throughout Friday's 118-104 home loss to Washington that they did in the final two minutes of Wednesday's 103-94 defeat at Boston. After watching the Celtics close the game on a 12-0 run, Indiana (22-18) let the Wizards shoot 52.0 percent from the field and 11 of 25 from 3-point range.

''Poor effort. Poor effort on both ends of the floor," said George, who had 21 points but shot 6 for 19 and had five turnovers. "We should never lose games like this, especially at home, where a team comes in and pushes the tempo and establishes how they're going to play.''

George has made only 10 of his last 44 3-point tries, and the Pacers have shot worse than 30 percent from beyond the arc in six of their past seven games. They're 8 for 47 (17 percent) in the last two as Monta Ellis and C.J. Miles have missed all 18 of their attempts.

"We gotta bring a better effort," George said. "We have to do a better job of coming out, do a better job of preparing. We gotta do a better job, head to toe, on this whole team."

The Nuggets (15-25) are the league's worst team at defending the 3 (38.4 percent) but have let only one of their past five opponents reach 100 points, and that came in Wednesday's 112-110 victory over league-best Golden State. They've won three times in that span despite scoring just 92.8 points per game and shooting 39.5 percent.

Denver fell to 2-1 on this eight-game homestand after scoring 33 second-half points in Friday's 98-95 loss to Miami.

"Obviously, we'll look at the film, get back after it and get ready for Indiana," coach Mike Malone said after his squad blew an 18-point lead.

Darrell Arthur has been a bright spot, totaling 36 points on 16-of-23 shooting and 19 rebounds in his last two games. However, Danilo Gallinari, Gary Harris and Will Barton finished with a combined 31 points while missing 24 of 32 from the field against the Heat.

Gallinari had 11 points after averaging 26.2 in his first six games back from an ankle injury. His team-high 19 points keyed a 76-73 home win over Indiana on Dec. 20, 2014, in the teams' last meeting.

The Nuggets averaged 117.8 points in the other five games of their home winning streak over the Pacers. Indiana is 4-17 in this series since 2004-05, including 1-9 in Denver.

While Pacers starting center Ian Mahinmi is questionable due to a sore ankle, Denver 7-footer Jusuf Nurkic isn't likely to play after missing Friday's game with a left knee injury.

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