Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers at Timberwolves120201


Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012 at Minneapolis
Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers (14-6) vs. T-Wolves (10-11)

By Conrad Brunner

SCOUTING THE PACERS: Off to the best 20-game start since 2003-04, the Pacers took their first big hit Tuesday night when sixth man George Hill went down with a chip fracture in his left ankle, sustained when he landed on Johan Petro's foot after a jump shot late in the third quarter. With Hill out indefinitely, the backup point guard minutes will be shared by Lance Stephenson and A.J. Price, though it remains to be seen how the second unit will compensate for the loss of its leading scorer.

Overall, the offense has been showing improvement of late. The 106-99 victory over New Jersey Tuesday was the second game in a row the Pacers topped 100 and shot better than 50 percent. Because of the quality of the defense there has not been great pressure on the offense to put up big numbers. The Pacers are 12-0 when they score at least 90 and 8-0 when at least 20 assists. Danny Granger has found his groove, scoring at least 20 points in four straight while averaging 22.0 with 6.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.1 steals. Paul George had a career-high 24 on 8-of-11 shooting against the Nets, while Roy Hibbert (18 points, 14 rebounds, four blocks) had his ninth double-double.

SCOUTING THE TIMBERWOLVES: This will be the Pacers' first look at Rucky Rubio (11.4 points, 8.9 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 2.2 steals), the rookie point guard sensation from Spain who has helped Minnesota make marked improvement under Coach Rick Adelman. The T-Wolves have won three of their last four, including conquests of Dallas and San Antonio. Kevin Love has having a monster season, fourth in the league in scoring (25.5) and second in rebounding (13.5) but he's far from alone. Michael Beasley (14.9 points, 6.8 rebounds) also has come on strong while Luke Ridnour (11.8 points) has provided a steady hand in the backcourt.

The Wolves spanked the Pacers 101-75 in the last meeting March 9 in Target Center as Indiana shot a season-low 29.6 percent from the field, including 4-of-23 from the 3-point line. Granger (2-of-19, including 0-of-9 from the arc) and Hibbert (0-of-6, 0 points) both struggled mightily.

KEY MATCHUP: The last eight games between these teams have been shootouts, with the Wolves averaging 112.3 points to the Pacers' 110.9. Minnesota's athleticism and ability to push the tempo with Rubio and Ridnour in the backcourt will provide a major challenge for an Indiana defense that has had some slippage of late. The Pacers have yielded averages of 93.9 points and .448 shooting in the last seven games.

QUOTE MARKS: "I'm really happy with how we're playing on the road. I want to be .500 on the road and we're 8-5, so we're pleased with where we are there. The defense is probably a little ahead of where I thought it would be. The offense is probably a little bit behind what I thought it would be although the last three or four games we've really started to come with our offensive execution. I'm excited about where we're going with that." - Coach Frank Vogel

INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, George Hill (chip fracture, left ankle) is out, while Jeff Foster (lower back procedure) is day to day. For the Timberwolves, Jose Barea (sprained left ankle) is questionable, Darko Milicic (ill) is doubtful, while Malcolm Lee (left knee surgery) is out.

BROADCAST INFO: The game will be telecast at 8 p.m. on Fox Sports Indiana with Chris Denari and Quinn Buckner calling the game with Brooke Olzendam hosting the pre-game show at 7:30. The radio broadcast is anchored by the flagship of the Pacers' network, WIBC 93 FM, featuring Mark Boyle in his 24th season of play-by-play along with Austin Croshere, with Kevin Lee hosting the pre-game and halftime shows.

INTERACT: You can get in-game commentary from this group of Pacers personalities throughout the game on Twitter.