Ten things you need to know about the Pacers' 98-86 victory over the Timberwolves on Wednesday at Conseco Fieldhouse. …
After using developmental substitution patterns in the first three games, Coach Jim O'Brien went to a more standard look and the results were impressive. Danny Granger scored 30 with 11 rebounds and four assists. Darren Collison scored 19 with three assists. Roy Hibbert had 16 points, 14 rebounds, seven blocks and four assists. Josh McRoberts had eight points and 11 boards but five turnovers.
After using the five-in, five-out substitution pattern of the first three games, employed so that young players could receive enough playing time for reasonable evaluation, the transition began toward standardizing the rotations. "We've been playing kind of equal opportunity to give a chance for the young guys to get in there and mix it up," he said. "More of a normal rotation tonight, not completely, but once we play Friday night (against New Orleans in Conseco Fieldhouse) we'll be into our eight-to-10 man rotation."
The defensive numbers looked good – Minnesota shot .319 overall and totaled just 34 points on 12-of-43 (.279) shooting in the second half – but did not impress the coach. "We are so far away from being a halfway decent defensive team," said O'Brien. "We're setting ourselves up for disappointment if we don't defend at a better level than we did tonight."
Paul George may have busted his preseason slump. He scored 10 off the bench with six rebounds in 24 minutes. He was 3-of-21 in the first three games, totaling seven points in 65 minutes. "I am getting a little more adjusted," he said. "It is as hard as I thought it would be."
Playing the second of a back-to-back, the T-Wolves led 52-47 at the half but were outscored 25-13 in the third quarter and that was that. As a result, the previously winless Pacers improved to 1-3 and the previously undefeated T-Wolves dropped to 3-1. As if that matters.
O'Brien would like to use a 10-man rotation during the regular season but it could depend on the tempo the Pacers establish. "It might depend on the tempo that we have established in a game but I would like to have confidence in 10 people," he said. "Whether we use all 10 every night is another issue but I would like to have 10 guys that would be ready to go and play every game."
My best guess on those 10: starters Darren Collison, Mike Dunleavy, Danny Granger, Josh McRoberts and Roy Hibbert; backups A.J. Price, James Posey, Paul George, Tyler Hansbrough and Jeff Foster.
Beyond the top six, there wasn't much in the way of productivity for the Pacers (no one else scored more two), leaving O'Brien particularly concerned about his depth up front, which he said was "alarmingly thin."
O'Brien will not donate playing time to younger players for the sake of their development. "I want to develop the young guys but I'm not developing anybody to the point that it might cost us a game," he said. " … We can talk about rebuilding all we want. My job is to win basketball games and develop talent. But the top priority is to win basketball games."
Brandon Rush has put himself in a real bind with the season-opening five-game suspension. If the guys playing ahead of him in the interim (namely Dunleavy and George) perform well, he may face a fight for playing time when he returns. "There are two issues," said O'Brien. "There would be the issue of where he would be in the rotation if he wasn't suspended. That is an issue separate from the suspension. He has to earn a rotation spot, number one. Number two, clearly he can't be in it the first five games so I'm thinking in terms of obviously other people. And depending on how the other people do in the first five games, we'll see how he fits back in."
Previous Caught in the Webs
Oct. 11: Price team's "best player" so far in preseason
Oct. 9: Hansbrough's return a heartening highlight
Oct. 7: Rebounding a problem waiting to be solved
Oct. 5: Hibbert's growth to be measured in preseason
Oct. 2: McRoberts playing like a starter
Oct. 1: Collison handling multiple adjustments
Sept. 29: Pacers the stuffed of legend at Bub's
Sept. 27: Cautious optimism the message on media day
Sept. 20: Hungry Hansbrough cleared to return
Sept. 15: Pacers get high marks for offseason moves
Sept. 13: Granger joins Miller as gold-medal Pacers
Sept. 9: Granger victim of U.S. numbers game
Sept. 1: Many possibilities at power forward
Aug. 27: Talking Turkey with Granger
Aug. 24: Despite struggling, Granger survives final cut
Aug. 20: International experience could be huge for Granger
Aug. 17: Collison ready to step into spotlight
Aug. 13: Honeycomb first of ABA Pacers to enter Hall of Fame
Aug. 11: Collison deal turns PG from question to exclamation
Aug. 11: Granger's finger injury believed to be minor
Aug. 10: Schedule's out, so circle these dates
Aug. 4: Walton puts Hibbert through personal training camp
Aug. 2: Banner day in a busy summer for Granger
July 27: After Jamaica sojourn, Hibbert back to work
July 22: Site still s preading the word in China
July 15: Bird hits the hot buttons
July 9: First look at rookies was an eye-opener
Follow Bruno on Twitter