Pacers try to cool down hot Nuggets

A team that's been hot on the road meets one that's glad to be back home when the Denver Nuggets visit the Indiana Pacers on Sunday night.

Both teams find themselves in tight battles for home-court advantage in their respective conferences when they duel in the rematch of a 102-100 Nuggets home win last Saturday.

Denver has won six in a row, including three straight to open a four-game trip.

The Nuggets (49-22) are battling Golden State for the best record in the West.

Indiana, meanwhile, returns home after losing four straight on a Western swing where it they faced Denver, Portland, the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State,

The Pacers (44-29) are neck-and-neck with Boston as they each attempt to gain the home-court edge in what appears to be a likely first-round playoff matchup.

The earlier Nuggets-Pacers meeting ended in dramatic fashion, with Paul Millsap flipping in a left-handed layup to break a tie with seven seconds remaining.

Denver went to Millsap after their All-Star center, Nikola Jokic, had been ejected for arguing with the referees.

The Pacers enjoyed a 37-20 advantage in free throw attempts in the game, allowing them nearly to overcome a 33-18 Nuggets' dominance in 3-point scoring.

Denver coach Michael Malone knows to expect a spirited effort in a revenge game for the Pacers, and went out of his way to caution his players to remain focused even while riding the high of a six-game winning streak.

"Feel good about it, celebrate it, but this is not something that can cause us any hangover effect," he told reporters after Friday's win at New York. "To be a good playoff team, we've gotta be playing our best basketball going into the postseason, and if we just kind of let our foot off the gas, that will not be the case."

The Pacers flew home after Thursday's 112-89 blowout loss at Golden State feeling the same way about looking forward rather than back.

Only in their case, they hope it changes things, rather than keeping things the same.

"Just got to wash it, man," center Myles Turner insisted to reporters after the loss to the Warriors. "Just got to wash it, know we have nine games remaining and we have to look forward. You can't dwell on this road trip. It was a tough stretch of the season for us, but we're all we got right now. We have to stick together and figure it out."

The schedule doesn't get any easier for either team after Sunday's meeting.

After returning home for one game against Detroit on Tuesday, the Nuggets head back out on the road for three of four, including a showdown with Golden State on April 2.

Similarly, the Pacers get just one home game -- Sunday against Denver -- leading into a visit to Oklahoma City before a road head-to-head with Boston on Friday.

Indiana also will host the Celtics on April 5.

--Field Level Media

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