The Denver Nuggets have struggled to find consistency but seemed to overcome that Monday night against the Miami Heat.
It will be tougher for the Nuggets to build on that when they host the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night.
Denver will be without reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic, who was suspended for one game by the league after his hit on Markieff Morris at the end of the 113-96 win over the Heat on Monday.
Monday’s game was essentially over, with Denver leading 111-94 with 2:39 left, when things got ugly. Jokic grabbed a defensive rebound and was bringing the ball upcourt when Morris ran into Jokic with a hard elbow to the center’s exposed right side as Jokic was throwing an overhead pass.
Jokic was knocked backward and then quickly went after Morris and hit him with a forceful forearm shiver to the back. Morris went down hard and was attended to by the Heat medical staff, which brought out a stretcher.
However, Morris was able to walk off the court and to the locker room. Both players were ejected.
Jokic’s first triple-double of the season was overshadowed by his ejection following his retaliatory actions against Morris.
Jokic was remorseful an hour after the game.
“I feel bad. It was a stupid play,” he said. “I’m not supposed to react that way. I thought it was going to be a take foul, (but) I think it was a dirty play. And I just needed to protect myself. I felt bad; I am not supposed to react that way, but I need to protect myself.”
The Nuggets are also without forward Michael Porter Jr. due to lower-back soreness. Porter did not play Monday, and the team did not practice Tuesday, so there was no update on Porter’s availability.
The Pacers are off to a tough start, and the schedule hasn’t been much of a help. Indiana played 11 games in 19 days to begin this season before enjoying two off days leading up to Wednesday night’s game.
“We’ll definitely take it,” Myles Turner said after Sunday night’s 94-91 win over Sacramento. “Any time we can get off our feet and take some time for ourselves during a long season, it’s always needed.”
The win over the Kings was the first road win of the season for the Pacers, and they did it without guard Malcolm Brogdon, who missed his second straight game due to a non-COVID-19 illness. His status for Wednesday hasn’t been announced.
It helps having Caris LeVert back in the lineup after he missed the first four games of the season with a stress fracture in his back. He had 22 points against the Kings.
“I just try to go out there and make plays. I’m still getting myself into game shape,” he said. “My teammates have supreme confidence in me, so they make it easy.”
Getting the first road win was important considering Indiana is in the midst of playing eight of 10 games away from home. After Denver, the Pacers head to Utah before hosting Philadelphia, and then they head out for three more road games.