The Indiana Pacers might have created a monster; now they must try to slay it Sunday night when they visit the Denver Nuggets.
The clubs will be meeting for the second time in 18 days, with the Nuggets having prevailed 126-114 at Indiana earlier this month.
That Denver win was made possible byMichael Porter Jr.'s season-best, 25-point explosion off the bench in just 23 minutes.
Porter, who missed all of last season and all but three games of his one and only college season at Missouri because of a back injury, totaled just 87 points in Denver's first 30 games this season before going for 11 and 19 in consecutive outings against Memphis and Sacramento in December.
Two games later, he had his big break-out night against the Pacers, hitting 11 of his 12 shots, beginning an eight-game run in which he's averaged 11.0 points on 66-percent shooting overall and 50-percent accuracy on 3-pointers.
Porter has added consistency to his earlier flashes of brilliance of late, scoring 13, 19 and 18 points in Denver's last three games, all of which the Nuggets have won.
He had his first career double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds in Thursday's 134-131 overtime win at Golden State.
"Think about Michael Porter," Nuggets coach Michael Malone gushed to reporters after the game. "The sky is the limit for that kid."
Porter was just glad to get an opportunity to play meaningful minutes late in a close game.
"With this many talented guys, to put up that line is pretty special for me being a rookie and everything," he told reporters. "My teammates were finding me in the right spots and it was all clicking tonight. I was trying to make the right plays and help the team get the win."
The Nuggets were able to extend their winning streak to three games despite the absence of three starters -- Paul Millsap (bruised left knee), Gary Harris (strained right adductor) and Jamal Murray (sprained left ankle).
Of the three, Millsap, who has sat out five straight, is the most likely to face the Pacers.
Indiana has won four in a row as it embarks on a five-game Western swing. The club will make the short trip to Utah for the second night of a back-to-back on Monday.
As Indiana anxiously awaits the season debut of injured Victor Oladipo, the team has been getting a surprising offensive boost of late from T.J. Warren.
The off-season acquisition from Phoenix had a team-high 28 points when the Pacers completed a home-and-home sweep of Minnesota in a 116-114 home win on Friday night.
He went for 20 points in the earlier meeting with Denver, part of a 14-game stretch in which he's averaged 19.1 points, shooting 53 percent from the field.
"Just fortunate to be on a team like this," he noted earlier this week. "As the season keeps going, we get Vic back and it's going to be a good team that's hard to deal with come April. I'm just excited to see what a full team is capable of doing."
--Field Level Media