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Nuggets-Pacers Preview

AP - Sports

Only nine teams have cracked the century mark against the Indiana Pacers' league-leading defense this season, with most of those games coming on the road.

The Pacers will try to avoid losing back-to-back games for only the second time and avenge an earlier loss at Denver as they host the Nuggets on Monday night.

Indiana (39-11), which is allowing a league-low 90.7 points per game, has given up 100 or more 11 times - Portland and Phoenix did it twice - and is 4-7 in those contests.

One of those losses was a 109-96 defeat in Denver on Jan. 25 that ended a stretch of three straight contests in which the Pacers allowed at least that many points - but all those games came on the road over a four-day span. Indiana also beat Sacramento 116-111 in overtime a day earlier after losing 124-100 to Phoenix on Jan. 22.

The Pacers have been far better defensively in going 24-2 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, surrendering 85.8 points per game on 39.5 percent shooting. They weren't as sharp in their most recent home game Friday, but pulled out a 118-113 OT win over high-scoring Portland.

That victory marked just the third time Indiana gave up 100 on its own floor, and the previous occasions resulted in the team's only home defeats.

The loss to the Nuggets was Indiana's fifth straight in the series and gave former assistant and first-year Denver coach Brian Shaw a win in his first game against his former team. The Pacers haven't beaten the Nuggets since a 144-113 romp at home on Nov. 11, 2010, in which they set a team record for points in a quarter with 54 in the third.

Indiana will be kicking off a three-game homestand after its four-game winning streak ended with a surprising 93-92 loss at Orlando on Sunday.

Paul George scored 27 points and Lance Stephenson added 16 for the Pacers, who were cruising before being outscored 29-18 in the fourth quarter.

"They picked up their energy," Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. "We've got to handle it. There was a stretch there in the third where we could have put them away. We were a little careless with some possessions ... and it was costly."

The Pacers' only back-to-back defeats this season came Dec. 16 at home against Detroit and at Miami two days later.

The up-tempo Nuggets (24-25) have relied primarily on offense and are in the league's top 10 at 103.8 points per game, but their suspect defense is the third-worst in the NBA with an average of 103.9 allowed.

They could be in for a frustrating night against Indiana after point guard Ty Lawson fractured a rib in a 126-109 loss at Detroit on Saturday. Evan Fournier stepped in at the start of the second half, with Randy Foye moving from shooting guard to the point, but Denver wasn't able to keep pace after entering the third quarter down 65-61.

"You could see it take the wind out of us when Ty came out of the game," Shaw said of Lawson, who was ruled out for this game. "He's our floor leader and he's the one who controls the pace and the tempo of the game."

Foye - who Shaw will move to point guard Monday night - scored 25 points, Wilson Chandler added 20 and J.J. Hickson had 15 and 16 rebounds for the Nuggets, who lost for the fourth time in six games and fell to 0-2 on their four-game trip.

Denver, which is 10-14 away from home, concludes the swing at Minnesota on Wednesday.

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