Wolves Down Pacers In Preseason Opener, 84-70
Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman was asked prior to Wednesday’s exhibition opener against the Indiana Pacers if his squad was a playoff team. Adelman didn’t hesitate in pointing out the preseason schedule hadn’t even begun yet, and it’s far too early to begin making such bold predictions.
Wednesday’s game was about a new beginning, about starting a journey that could in fact lead beyond the end of April with a squad full of new faces learning to work together. What Adelman saw in Minnesota’s 84-70 win over the Pacers at the Fargodome in Fargo, N.D., was that his team has a good foundation—it just needs to keep building.
[Related Content: CLICK HERE for a running blog with updates throughout Wednesday's 84-70 win in Fargo]
“Our concentration was pretty good, our effort was good,” Adelman said. “Got a lot of things to build on. We turned it over way too many times. I thought the guys were unselfish in what they were trying to do. First one is over and we have to get better.”
The Wolves faced a Pacers team missing three of its starters—Danny Granger, David West and George Hill all did not dress for the preseason opener. Still, Minnesota led virtually all game, showed signs of potential on both ends of the floor and looks to be a team that could be quite a handful in the Western Conference this year.
It all hinges on health and production from its new stars surrounding staples Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic, and they got it against the Pacers. Pekovic and newly acquired forward Chase Budinger led the team with 14 points apiece, guard Brandon Roy chipped in 13 points and Love added 12 points and eight rebounds in the victory.
On the offensive end, the Wolves had flashes of brilliance and some moments that look like they’re works in progress. In particular, forward Andrei Kirilenko’s touch passes and vision will be huge assets once his teammates are able to anticipate his ball movement. Guard Alexey Shved, playing in his first game with his new NBA team, shows similar court awareness and has a flashy approach to the game.
Defensively, Shved showed he’s not willing to give his man a clear path to the basket. Center Greg Stiemsma recorded two blocks in 13 minutes, and Kirilenko collected three steals while playing physical defense against a rough Indiana squad.
“We played physical, had all the defensive coverages down,” Love said. “Step 1, a lot of jitters out there for some guys. Shots were short, a lot of shots were long. Getting into a rhythm is another thing we need to do. It was a good one to get out of the way.”
Indiana’s Paul George led the way with 16 points for the Pacers, while DJ Augustin, Sam Young and Ian Mahinmi each finished with six points. Roy Hibbert finished with five points and four rebounds on the night.
Leader of the Pack
After not playing the entire 2011-12 season due to his ailing knees, Brandon Roy’s first game back was everything he hoped it would be. Roy finished with 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting, pulled down four rebounds and added a steal and an assist, but the way he did it was reassuring to both himself and his teammates. Roy didn’t shy away from contact, he made aggressive cuts to the lane and he scored both at the rim and with his jumper—which looks like it didn’t take a year off.
“[I] went through a lot last year. Just getting to that moment of putting on my uniform and going out there and playing a game—it was great,” Roy said. “This was the first game I’ve played since Game 6 of the Dallas series [in 2011], over a year ago. It was just good to be back out there and playing again.”
Roy didn’t hold anything back. He took contact in stride, and he even took on multiple defenders while attacking the lane in the third quarter. He finished playing 23:40 on the night.
Love said Roy is, simply put, a shot-maker. Adelman said he’s a smart player who plays within what the team is trying to do. For Pacers coach Frank Vogel and center Roy Hibbert, he looked like the Roy of old.
“It sure did,” Vogel said. “It didn’t look like he was limited at all.”
With 9:29 left in the second quarter and the Wolves’ second unit on the floor, guard Alexey Shved and Derrick Williams might have given fans a taste of a highlight-reel caliber connection in the making. The two took the ball up court on a two-on-one fast break, and Shved dished a pretty alley-oop pass to Williams who threw down a one-handed slam. It was two of Williams’ nine second-quarter points—going 4-of-6 in the period—and was the flashiest play of the night. Shved finished with four assists, which tied JJ Barea for a team high on the night.
The Numbers Game
- Both teams struggled from the field during Wednesday’s game, which is to be expected considering it was both teams’ first outing of the year. Shots were misfired and air-balled, with Minnesota finishing with a 40.5 percent field goal percentage and Indiana finishing at 34.8 percent.
- One player who was efficient with his shot selection was Derrick Williams, who finished 4-of-7 and scored all nine of his points in the second quarter. Williams was 1-of-3 from 3-point range, a part of his game he’s continuing to work on, but as he did in Summer League he attacked the basket in some of his touches on Wednesday. Shved picked up assists on two of those aggressive plays, one being the alley-oop and later on a give-and-go, where Williams took a Shved pass, cut into the paint and finished with a lay-in from left of the basket.
- Love finished with 12 points and eight rebounds on the night, with much of his success coming in the third quarter. He headed into halftime 2-of-9 with six points, but he responded with a 3-of-5 second half. His 3-point shot wasn’t connecting, however, as he finished 0-for-4 from distance. Love, Pekovic, Barea and Kirilenko all played the full 12 minutes in the third and all but Barea sat for the entire fourth quarter.
- Pekovic had a reputation a season ago for pulling down offensive rebounds, and he did the same on Wednesday in Fargo. Three of Pekovic’s five rebounds came on the offensive end, tying him with Kirilenko and Will Conroy for the team lead.
- Pacers guard Paul George was the team’s top performer on Wednesday. He finished with a game-high 16 points on 4-of-10 shooting, and he impressed Vogel with his aggressiveness attacking the basket and getting to the free-throw line. The Pacers had 14 players score points in the loss, but no one had more than six other than George.
Quote of the Night
“I’m happy to see [Brandon Roy] back—happy to see him in the Western Conference. Just a great, great guy. We hoped to bring him in this summer and Minnesota got him, credit to them. He looks like he’s back, and he looks good.” – Pacers coach Frank Vogel on Brandon Roy
The Timberwolves have a day off on Thursday before heading to Indianapolis for a Friday matchup with this same Pacers squad. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Wolves will play back-to-backs this weekend, traveling straight from Indianapolis back to Minneapolis for a Saturday night home game against the Chicago Bulls at Target Center.