GameDay LIVE Blog: Wolves vs. Pacers | Feb. 19, 2014



Final: That's the ballgame, folks. Big win for the Timberwolves, who open up the second half with a 104-91 over the top team in the East. It's huge to keep themselves close to that .500 mark, and it's also big because it means the Wolves are heading on a five-game road trip on a positive note. Love was excellent with 42 and 16. Rubio has 17 assists, and Brewer and Barea each had 12. The only thing in question is Turiaf's knee. We'll keep an eye on that. Follow along for more coverage throughout the night. MIN 104, IND 91

Q4 2:31: Turiaf will not return with a right knee injury. The Wolves are up 12 with 2:31 to play but are going to get everything the Pacers have here in these final minutes. Wolves are sending Rubio, Brewer, Mbah a Moute, DC and Love out to the floor. MIN 99, IND 87

Q4 3:46: Rubio with another active play, helping force the turnover in the Indiana offensive zone and hitting Love in stride for the breakaway jam. Rubio has 16 assists, Love has 39 points and the Wolves lead 98-84 w/ 3:46 to play. MIN 98, IND 84

Q4 7:15: The good news at this timeout is the Wolves have a 12-point lead. The bad news is the reason for the timeout is Ronny Turiaf was injured and just left headed for the locker room with a limp. We will learn more and pass it along. For the time being, though, the Wolves will need to head into the final seven minutes of this game without their regular starting center (Pek) or tonight's starting center (Turiaf). MIN 80, IND 78

Q4 8:33: Barea still has his shot falling, and he just dropped a nice midrange jumper that put this teeter-tottering game back up to 11 in Minnesota's favor. Ronny Turiaf also had a nice jumper at the shot clock earlier this quarter. Minnesota went with its bench early on here in the fourth, and they're doing a good job of maintaining. We might go one more timeout before Love and the starters return. MIN 88, IND 77

End Q3: Love is feeling it, folks. He just gook a baseline inbound pass with 3.8 left in the quarter, created contact and hit a fallaway 19-footer to put the Wolves back up 10. Huge basket as we did get back to that double-digit lead with 12 minutes to play. The Pacers are going to come with everything they've got in this quarter, and they did cut the lead by five in the third. The way Love is shooting (37 points, 12-of-18 FG, 5-of-8 3FG), the Wolves need to ride him here in the fourth to try and knock off the East's best team. MIN 82, IND 72

Q3 2:45: We're kind of seeing a Love vs. George show here tonight. Love has 28 points, 13 boards and is 10-of-14 from the field. George is 9-of-16 from the field and has 27 points. They're going back and forth here in the third. Love is just so automatic tonight. You can tell he's feeling comfortable with his shot. Meanwhile, the Wolves are leading by nine and trying to get out of this quarter with a double-digit lead. That would be a big victory within this game having at least a 10-point game heading into the fourth. MIN 73, IND 62

Q3 6:41: The Wolves are holding true here in the second half, maintaining their 13-point lead here in the third. Love i still rolling with 24 points and 11 boards. Also watch Ricky Rubio this half as he has four points, 10 assists and six rebounds. Does he have enough scoring punch to get a triple-double tonight? So far he's hitting the boards with enough aggressiveness to possibly get to double digits in rebounds. MIN 64, IND 51

Halftime: The Wolves are holding a 13-point lead at the break, which is a nice way to head into the half considering the run Indiana put together late in the second. They at one point had a 13-0 run going and really dug into the Wolves' 20-point lead, but it's back out to 13 as we break for a bit. Love has 19 points and 11 boards, while Brewer and Barea each have nine. George has 15 for the Pacers. The big issue with that run was Indiana began getting to the rim--they now tied the points in the paint up 24-24. Minnesota still leads 12-2 on the fast break. MIN 52, IND 39

Q2 6:48: The Wolves are bringing it tonight, folks. The reserves pushed this lead to 20 after Barea's circus reverse layup with the sweet English off the glass. Cunningham has been very good--not only 3-of-4 with six points on offense but also very active on defense and the glass. He has four rebounds in six minutes. Minnesota has 12 assists on 17 field goals, and they're still controlling the paint 20-10. Great start here for the Wolves. Would be nice to keep this momentum going into the second half. MIN 40, IND 20

Q2 8:41: Minnesota is holding onto a game-high 16 point lead and has the second unit in featuring Barea, Shved, Mbah a Moute, Cunningham and Gorgui. Meanwhile, the Wolves are leading 10-2 in fast break points and have a 16-10 lead in the paint. They've yet to put the Pacers on the line, and Indiana has 10 turnovers. All good signs for the Wolves, and indicative of the early score situation. MIN 36, IND 20

End Q1: Overall good start for the Timberwolves, who lead by 12 heading into the second. Love was sensational in the first quarter, an efficient 4-of-5 with 3-of-4 from deep. He's got 12 points and eight boards early. Brewer had eight points, and Rubio has eight assists through one. Paul George is leading the way with 12 points for Indiana, but the Wolves are benefiting from eight Pacers turnovers early. That's a trend Minnesota needs to keep going--Indiana has four fewer field goal attempts and are shooting 36.4 percent from the floor. MIN 30, IND 18

Q1 3:54: Love is on fire tonight. He's getting every tipped rebound plus the normal ones he gets cleanly, and he's already up to 12 points and seven boards with four minutes left in the first. Hibbert said Love looks like he has magnets in his hands over this weekend, and it appears to be true tonight. He just wrestled a tipped board away from Hibbert seconds ago. Also, Brewer just had another impressive jam on the fast break, pushing this lead to 13. MIN 23, IND 10

Q1 7:43: Our two All-Star starters led the way early as Love and George each combined for the first 11 points of the game--Love's pair of 3-pointers had Minnesota up 6-5 right off the bat. Since then, others have gotten involved for the Wolves and just produced a 7-0 run to open up an eight-point lead. The Wolves are capitalizing on four Indiana turnovers, which is something they'll need to do against this team. Transition points and opportunities limits the number of times Indiana can get set defensively in their half court positioning, namely with Hibbert down low. You can see how he alters guards' ability to get to the hoop already in this game. Love leads all scorers with six, while Brewer has five (two FGs at the basket plus a FT off an and-one). MIN 13, IND 5

Starters:

Pacers:
PG-George Hill, SG-Lance Stephenson, SF-Paul George, PF-David West, C-Roy Hibbert

Wolves: PG-Ricky Rubio, SG-Chase Budinger, SF-Corey Brewer, PF-Kevin Love, C-Ronny Turiaf

PREGAME 7:05 PM: Obviously it's key for the Wolves to get Pekovic and Martin back as soon as possible. Here's what Adelman had to say about the injuries tonight during his pregame availability session:

“We have to get them back. We’re playing this team. This team tonight is the best team in the league defensively. They took it to us when we played them way back in November. So, it puts a lot of stress on you because you have to find those 40 points somewhere. Without those guys, I think we’ve talked about it before, you start Chase now, you start Ronny now and you shorten your bench. For a short period of time it’s OK but after 2-3 weeks it starts getting harder and harder. So, I think we have to find a way to get other people involved tonight and give us some production.”

PREGAME 6:20 PM: The Pacers understand the situation they're in and what the Wolves are trying to accomplish at this point in the season. Even though it's a late-February game, you can make the argument both teams have quite a bit at stake tonight.

The Pacers are trying to keep ahead in the race for the East's top spot. The Wolves are trying to get back into the West's playoff picture.

"This is a tough, tough situation for our team to come in on the second night of a back-to-back, playing against a team where everybody starts the second half post-All-Star stretch with a renewed focus, renewed energy," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "These guys, you know, are close enough to still battle for that eighth spot. So tonight starts their mission, and we’re going to have to play great to beat them."

Vogel said one advantage Indiana has tonight is they'll get to come in at full strength, while the Wolves will be without both Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin. Pek, Vogel said, is one of the guys in this league that, when paired with Kevin Love, can physically match up with what the Pacers do in the paint. Without him, Vogel said it's not quite the same.

"I'm looking at my notes from the first time we played these guys, and it's like I think I wrote 'smash mouth styles collide,' " Vogel said.

As for the Pacers, Vogel, Roy Hibbert and Paul George all took part in the All-Star Weekend festivities. Then, they turned around and played last night in Indiana before coming here. He said he's still not back into the groove after that long weekend, and he certainly isn't feeling fully rested as they start the second half of the year.

"I know I’m a little more tired than usual," Vogel said. "I’m sure these guys are, but that doesn’t mean anything. We’ve still got to go out and win games. We’ll have a day off tomorrow, but right now it’s about putting all that stuff aside and going out and getting a win."

PREGAME 2:45 PM: Good afternoon everyone. Welcome back to Target Center for the first game after the 2014 All-Star Break, where the Wolves will host the Indiana Pacers tonight. Big game, folks. The Pacers rolled last night against Atlanta and started the second half on the right track. Indiana has been one of the best teams in the league all season, and they’ve been very vocal about the necessity of having home court in a seven-game series against the Miami Heat come playoff time. The best part about this Pacers team is that they feel that sense of urgency every night, and they come out and perform as a result. Their 41-12 record proves that.

So here they are in Minnesota, ready to play a Timberwolves team that absolutely must be in sense of urgency mode as they begin this 29-game stretch to the postseason. In order for the Wolves to make it, conventional wisdom says they’ll need to go 22-7 or 23-6 the rest of the way. That’s a lofty goal, but it’s not out of the question. To do it, though, the Wolves will need to absolutely do what all teams try to accomplish across sports platforms: sweep at home, split on the road. And guess what: If the Wolves won out at home and split on the road, their record would be 22-7.

It’s more complicated than that, of course, but the bottom line is this Wolves team did hand some games away in the first half and they’ll need to make them up somehow.

[Related Story: The Pacers play old-school ball....just don't tell them that.]

The good news tonight is Indiana isn’t untouchable on the road. They’re 15-9 away from Bankers Life Fieldhouse compared to 26-3 at home, and they’re also 15-6 against the West compared to 26-6 against the East. Indiana is 11-8 against teams above .500 and 30-4 against teams below. The reality is the Wolves put themselves below .500 by going 1-12 in games decided by four points or fewer in the first half of the season, so that stat is a little skewed heading into tonight.

The biggest challenge Minnesota faces is how they will match the physicality inside, particularly without starting bruiser Nikola Pekovic in the lineup. The Wolves announced on Tuesday that Pek will be inactive tonight against the Pacers, leaving center Ronny Turiaf as the primary defender on Roy Hibbert. How will the Wolves rotate their bench into this game in order to give Turiaf some rest inside? This type of physical Pacers squad is the type that could get rookie Gorgui Dieng in foul trouble early.

We are seeing two very different styles of play here tonight on the defensive end. Indiana is not the most productive team in the steals category: They are 24th in the league with 7.1 per game, while Minnesota is fifth with 8.8 a night (i.e. Ricky Rubio). In the blocks category, however, Indiana is fourth with 5.8 per game (i.e. Roy Hibbert) and Minnesota is 30th at 3.6.

It does show how important rim protection is in this league. Indiana is first most defensive categories, including opponents points per game (90.2), while Minnesota is 21st at 101.8 points per night.

That sets the table for tonight. The Wolves are third in the NBA with 105.5 points game, while Indiana is 20th at 98.7 points per night. Can the Wolves’ offense hang tough without Pekovic and Kevin Martin in the lineup?

Find out tonight. Tipoff is set for 7 PM on Fox Sports North, ESPN and 830 WCCO-AM.

Here are a few news/notes about tonight's game:

  • The Wolves trail in the all-time series 16-31, but are 12-11 at home. The Pacers have won four of the last five meetings in the series. Indiana won the previous meeting this season, 98-84, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse behind 26 points each from Paul George and George Hill.

  • Wolves Notes

  • Kevin Love has tallied 25+ points and 10+ rebounds in seven straight games, matching the longest such streak of his career (Dec. 16-30, 2013) as well as the longest streak in the NBA since Shaquille O’Neal tallied eight straight between Jan. 3-19, 2005. Love is averaging 31.6 points and 15.1 rebounds over this seven-game stretch.

  • Love currently leads the NBA in double-doubles (44), 20/10 games (33) and 30/10 games (13). He ranks 4th in the league in scoring (25.8 ppg), 2nd in rebounding (13.2 rpg) and 2nd in free throws made (342). Love is also averaging 4.0 assists -- the last player to average 25+ points, 13+ rebounds and 4+ assists over a full season was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975-76.

  • Ricky Rubio is averaging 14.6 points and 8.2 assists in the last five games. He had a season-high seven steals last Wednesday vs. Denver, his 13th game this season with 4+ steals (next best is 8 games by 5 players). Rubio ranks 1st in the NBA in steals (2.55 spg) and 4th in assists (8.3 apg).

  • Corey Brewer is averaging 17.3 ppg, on 52.8% (28-for-53) shooting, and 2.25 steals in his last four games. He ranks 13th in the NBA in steals at 1.65 spg. Brewer and Rubio have combined for 221 steals this year, the most by any duo.

  • Ronny Turiaf has started the last nine games, and is averaging 5.7 points, on 56.8% (25-for-44) shooting, 7.8 rebounds and 2.60 blocks over the last 10 games. He has pulled down double-digit rebounds in his last three games, the longest such streak of his career.

  • Chase Budinger has started the last three games, averaging 15.3 ppg and 4.3 rebounds and shooting 43.8% (7-for-16) from long distance in those games.

  • Pacers Notes

  • At 41-12, Indiana has the best record in the Eastern Conference, 2.5 games ahead of Miami. The Pacers are 15-9 on the road this season, 7-4 vs. the West. Indiana is 8-6 on the second game of a back-to-back.

  • The Pacers allow the fewest points per game in the NBA at 90.5 ppg and have the best point differential (+8.2) in the league. They also rank first in opponent's field goal percentage at 41.2%.

  • Paul George is one of five players (Love, James, Griffin, Durant) averaging at least 22 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists per game this season. He ranks 10th in the NBA in scoring (2.3 ppg) and 8th in steals (1.81 spg).

  • David West is averaging 20.0 points on 61.0% (50-for-82) shooting over the last six games.

  • Roy Hibbert ranks 3rd in the NBA in blocked shots with 2.51 bpg. He has recorded four blocks in three of the last four games, and has 14 games this season with 4+ blocks.



  • For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter.