Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers vs. Timberwolves
Monday, April 16 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 7 p.m.
By Conrad Brunner
SCOUTING THE PACERS: Before the Pacers faced the Bucks in Milwaukee Saturday night, Coach Frank Vogel was asked about Bucks Coach Scott Skiles suggesting his team needs to win out to reach the playoffs. "We want to win out," he said. "We may have to win out to get homecourt advantage." With fourth-place Boston and fifth-place Atlanta both coming on strong, the Pacers are making themselves difficult to catch. Their 105-99 win in Milwaukee was their fourth in a row and eighth in nine April games. It also extended two impressive streaks -- four in a row (and nine of 10) scoring at least 100, and seven in a row allowing fewer than 100.
The Pacers didn't shoot well against the Buckets (.402) but pounded the boards (19 offensive rebounds) and got to the line (24 free throws made) as center Roy Hibbert had his third consecutive double-double with 23 points and 14 rebounds. Hibbert has averaged 15.3 points, 11.7 boards and 2.33 blocks in those three games. George Hill made his fourth consecutive start at point in place of the injured Darren Collison and has averaged 15.8 points, 4.8 assists and 3.8 rebounds while committing a total of three turnovers. Danny Granger scored 21, and has averaged 22.8 in April.
SCOUTING THE TIMBERWOLVES: It appears Kevin Love won't get the chance to back up his tough talk. After the Pacers beat the T-Wolves 109-99 in Minneapolis on Feb. 1, Love said "I don't like the Pacers" and mocked their physical play, saying, "They are all tough and that makes me laugh." Love has missed the past two games with a concussion and will remained sidelined indefinitely. The Wolves are reeling, having dropped nine in a row including a 115-110 decision to Oklahoma City Saturday despite 24 points and 10 assists from J.J. Barea and 14 points and 13 rebounds from Nikola Pekovic. Michael Beasley scored 26 and Anthony Randolph 22 with 11 rebounds against the Thunder. Randolph has stepped forward in Love's absence, averaging 22 points, 8.6 rebounds and shooting 59 percent in the last three games.
KEY MATCHUP: Minnesota got 54 bench points against the Thunder and had a 44-16 advantage over the Pacers when last the teams met. Reserve forwards Beasley and Randolph both are athletic, explosive talents that must be contained.
QUOTE MARKS: "We need to continue to grow defensively and stepping up to the challenge of getting stops, get rebounds, and executing in the fourth quarter. We’re still growing, still playing hard, and that’s all we can do at this current point, and knowing every game means something to us." - Pacers forward David West
INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, Darren Collison (sore groin) is day-to-day. For the Timberwolves, Wayne Ellington (back) is day-to-day, Kevin Love (concussion), Darko Milicic (hamstring) and Luke Ridnour (ankle) are doubtful and Ricky Rubio (knee) is out.
TICKETS: Buy now
BROADCAST INFO: The game will be telecast on Fox Sports Indiana with Chris Denari and Quinn Buckner calling the game with Brook Olzendam hosting the pregame show starting at 6:30. The radio broadcast will air on WIBC 93 FM, featuring Mark Boyle and Bobby "Slick" Leonard.
INTERACT: You can get in-game commentary from this group of Pacers personalities throughout the game on Twitter.