After a rough couple of weeks, the Pacers will be happy to bid goodbye to 2017. Indiana (19-18) fell to the Minnesota Timberwolves (23-14) on Sunday evening at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 107-90.
The Pacers dropped four straight games and seven of their last 10 contests to close out the calendar year. Part of that can be attributed to the absence of leading scorer Victor Oladipo, who sat out his third straight game on Sunday with right knee soreness, but that is just one of the myriad issues that have plagued the Pacers in recent weeks.
The Pacers have made a bad habit of getting off to slow starts in recent weeks, but the opening minutes of Sunday's game set a new low. Indiana missed its first 12 shots and committed five turnovers while falling into a 17-0 hole.
"We're getting off to too many slow starts defensively," Pacers point guard Darren Collison said after the game. "They're not really feeling us. We're not really executing offensively, we're getting too many turnovers on (that) end. It's a combination of things right now."
Head coach Nate McMillan called two timeouts before the Blue & Gold finally got on the scoreboard thanks to Domantas Sabonis' baseline hook shot with 5:15 left in the frame.
The Pacers' bench provided a solid spark from that point on, however. Indiana's reserves scored all 13 of the team's points in the first quarter and the hosts only trailed by 10 points heading into the second quarter.
HOLIDAY PACKS: Five Great Games + Gear for the Holidays Starting at Just $125 »The Pacers managed to trim their deficit to five points by the midway point of the second quarter, but Minnesota responded with seven unanswered points to push the margin back to double digits. The visitors held Indiana at arm's length for the rest of the quarter and took a 49-38 lead into the break.
The Timberwolves scored the first eight points of the third quarter to push their lead to 19 points, but Bojan Bogdanovic caught fire to help the Pacers make another charge. The Croatian scored 13 points in a 2:36 stretch, trimming the deficit back to 11 on his third 3-pointer of the frame.
But Minnesota put the game away shortly after that, reeling off a 16-2 run to open up a 26-point lead. The visitors led 87-58 heading into the fourth quarter and cruised to a comfortable win.
Third-year guard Joe Young led the Pacers with 20 points off the bench on 7-of-11 shooting to go along with five rebounds and two assists.
"When your time comes, you've got to be ready," Young said after the game. "Like (teammate) Al Jefferson told me, you've just got to be ready at all times. Your name could get called any second. I took that as motivation and just stayed ready."
All 13 of Bogdanovic's points came in the third quarter and Cory Joseph was the only other Pacers player to reach double figures, finishing with 10 points and four assists.
Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler led all scorers with 26 points, going 8-for-11 from the field and 10-for-11 from the free throw line. Karl-Anthony Towns added 18 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, and six blocks.
The Pacers have two days off before returning to action on Wednesday in Milwaukee, when they meet the Bucks for the first time this season at 8:00 PM ET.
"We talked about it earlier in the season (and) before the season even started, that there will be some tough times," veteran Pacers forward Damien Wilkins said after the loss. "The only way to get out of those tough times is to remain tough and stay together. Don't lose confidence, don't lose focus, and don't fragment."
Inside the Numbers
Young's 20 points set a new career high. His previous best performance came as a rookie at Golden State, when he scored 16 points on Jan. 22, 2016. He also set a new career mark with three 3-pointers.
The Pacers set a season high with 58 bench points, 13 more than their previous high, set in the season opener against Brooklyn on Oct. 18.
Indiana's starters managed just 32 points, however, on 12-of-37 shooting. Bogdanovic was the only starter to reach double figures. Thaddeus Young had eight points, Darren Collison and Lance Stephenson each scored five, and Myles Turner had one point on 0-for-5 shooting.
The Timberwolves outscored Indiana 58-36 in the paint.
The Pacers had 17 turnovers and only forced Minnesota into eight giveaways, the fewest turnovers by a Pacers opponent all season.
After setting a franchise record by shooting 66.7 percent from the field in a win on Oct. 24 at Minnesota, the Pacers recorded their lowest percentage in a home game this season in their rematch with the Timberwolves, shooting just 38.8 percent on Sunday.
You Can Quote Me On That
"We obviously lost a rhythm and have to stay together and continue to work. You know, getting off to these slow starts, and we certainly look like we've lost a little confidence and we're going to take tomorrow off and mentally and physically try to rest, come back and just stay together." -McMillan
"One game can get us back on track. I’m a big believer, you win one game, start feeling good about yourself and get back on a streak." -Collison
"It's just about us coming in and staying together and bringing energy. We just gotta get a better start and I feel like we're going to get better at it. We're going to come together as a team. We're a great team and we're going through a little adversity, but we're going to overcome it." -Joe Young
"We watched film the last two days of (the Pacers') win earlier in the year and it definitely wakes you up, it was good to get back at them. It was a testament to our defense, we've been really focused the last few days." -Butler
"It was like déjà vu. We didn't have Jimmy (Butler) when they beat us earlier in the year and tonight they didn't have Vic(tor) (Oladipo). But nobody is going to feel sorry for you in this league." -Timberwolves forward Taj Gibson on the stark contrast between the two games between Minnesota and Indiana this season
Stat of the Night
Pacers starters did not score a point on Sunday until Collison made a jumper with 4:47 left in the second quarter.
Minnesota is just 7-21 all-time in Indiana, but has now won three of its last four games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Stephenson received a flagrant foul for elbowing Towns on a screen with 2:26 left in the third quarter.
Rookie center Ike Anigbogu played the final 3:47 and set new career bests with seven points and four rebounds.
Wilkins, who turns 38 on Jan. 11, played 27:24, more than double his previous season high. He finished with five points, three rebounds, and two assists.
The Pacers and Bucks meet for the first time this season in Milwaukee on Wednesday, Jan. 3 at 8:00 PM ET.
The Pacers return to Bankers Life Fieldhouse to host Nikola Mirotić and the Chicago Bulls on Saturday, Jan. 6 at 7:00 PM ET.