AJ Mast/Associated Press
AJ Mast/Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS – Denver’s old man, Andre Miller, can still deliver a decisive knockout punch when needed.
Indiana found out the hard way Friday night.
The 36-year-old guard played like a revitalized All-Star, scoring eight of his 15 points during a decisive 10-0 run to send the Nuggets past the Pacers 92-89. Miller had a hand in all of the points during the late flurry – making three baskets and two free throws and dishing out an assist on the only basket he didn’t score.
“He knows how to get shots down the stretch better than some of our other guys, some of our younger guys,” coach George Karl said. “He was running the pick-and-roll actions better than anyone all game long, and he just has that old-man knack, that old-school knack.”
For one night, at least, Miller rekindled images from the days he was one of the league’s most feared guards.
This time, the oldest player on the league’s third-youngest team, showed his teammates that a combination of poise, leadership and clutch play will trump big names and flashy plays every time.
No, Miller didn’t produce the biggest numbers for Denver (10-10).
JaVale McGee had a season-high 20 points, 16 in the first half, and eight rebounds. Corey Brewer matched his season-high with 20 points, too, on a night only two Denver starters reached double figures – Kosta Koufos with 12 points and Andre Iguodala with 10.
But Miller delivered the scoring punch when Denver needed it most.
“We just want to keep providing some stability, some energy, so hopefully, it can carry over into the games,” Miller said as he walked out of the locker room.
Indiana (10-10) was looking for its first three-game winning streak this season and had a chance to force overtime when George Hill blocked Ty Lawson’s shot from the left corner with 8.8 seconds to go. Hill grabbed the loose ball and sprinted up the court, but rather than call timeout to set up a play, Hill circled around and threw up an off-balance 3-pointer that bounced off the side of the rim as the buzzer sounded.
Hill finished with 15 points on a night all five Pacers starters scored in double figures. Paul George finished with 22, including four 3s. David West had 18 points and 11 rebounds, Roy Hibbert had 10 points and nine rebounds, and Lance Stephenson had 12 points.
Afterward, Hill said perhaps he should have called the timeout. Coach Frank Vogel disagreed.
“In a scramble situation, that’s where you get your most open looks,” Vogel said.
Either way, it wasn’t good enough against the feisty Nuggets and suddenly revitalized Miller.
The Nuggets overcame Indiana’s fast start, which put them in a 10-point hole less than four minutes into the game, took the lead early in the second quarter and stayed in control for most of the game.
But after leading for most of the next 2-plus quarters, Miller re-emerged when Indiana charged back.
“He’s drinking from the fountain of youth,” point guard Ty Lawson said. “He was coming down and getting buckets, getting assists, he’s playing well for us. He’s winning games for us.”
Exhibit A came Friday night in a city where Denver has won seven of its last nine and in a series in which the Nuggets have won 13 of the last 16.
Midway through the fourth quarter, it looked like the Nuggets would hold on again as they scored seven consecutive points to rebuild an 80-74 lead.
Indiana answered with Stephenson’s layup, a three-point play from Hill and a free throw from Hibbert to tie the score at 82 with 3:52 to go. Twenty seconds later, George hit a 3-pointer, giving Indiana the lead and sending the crowd into a frenzy.
But after a timeout, Miller took control.
He started the run with two free throws, then scored on a layup and hit a 15-footer. After feeding McGee for a dunk, he closed the run with a 14-foot pullup shot to make it 92-85 with 1:01 to play.
“They came out and really brought it up a level, and it kind of took us some time to adjust to that,” George said. “By that time, they kind of found something, letting Andre Miller attack and find guys.”
George answered with his fourth 3, and Stephenson cut the deficit to three by making 1 of 2 free throws with 29.9 seconds left.
Miller and the Nuggets didn’t let Indiana get any closer.
“I’ve played with him for two years,” Iguodala said of Miller. “And I’ve seen that calm about him before when it’s needed, especially for a team like ours with some youth.”
AJ Mast/ Associated Press