Effort in question after bad home loss

Pacers can't match Nuggets' intensity in disconcerting defeat.

Regardless of results, Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel hasn’t taken issue too often with how hard his short-handed team has played.

But he did Friday night.

And it was obvious.

The Denver Nuggets’ 108-87 rout of the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse was a lesson in what can go wrong rather quickly if the effort isn’t up to par.

The Pacers had played so well defensively in Wednesday’s 81-75 win at Miami, then inexplicably couldn’t man up on their home court against a Nuggets squad that looked like a hungrier bunch hell-bent on snapping a six-game losing streak.

That Denver did, shooting 55.8 percent in the first half to take a 64-46 edge. By the end of the third quarter, the Nuggets led 92-67.

Vogel repeated what he told the team a couple of times in his post-game interview.

“We have to play harder than every team we play every night to have a chance,” he said.

Isn’t that a lot to ask?

“No, it’s really not,” said reserve guard A.J. Price. “We’re undermanned, we know that going into games, we’ve got a lot of good players hurt. He shouldn’t even have to tell us that we need to play harder than the other team. We should know that as players and professionals. We’ve got to play harder than every team every night.”

It’s especially true for a team missing so many key regulars. The well-documented injury list consists of forward David West, point guard George Hill, backup point guard C.J. Watson and reserve guard Rodney Stuckey. Only Stuckey has played in the regular season so far.

Guard-forward C.J. Miles finally returned after missing four games with migraine symptoms and he exited late in the first quarter with a calf injury. Vogel doesn’t think it’s serious, but any subtraction from such a depleted equation compounds the situation.

Pacers guard Solomon Hill said his team was guilty of letting the Nuggets dictate everything to them. Each time Indiana tried to adjust, Denver had an answer.

“They got hot tonight,” Hill said. “They really did.”

Vogel said the Nuggets (2-6) caused the Pacers (3-7) problems with their speed, but that’s no excuse for a lack of effort.

“We need to bring it every night,” the coach said. “That’s the bottom line.”

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.

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