GAME RECAP: Timberwolves 107, Pacers 90

Jimmy Butler scores 26 points as the Timberwolves defeat the Pacers, 107-90.

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GAME RECAP: Timberwolves 107, Pacers 90

Jimmy Butler scores 26 points as the Timberwolves defeat the Pacers, 107-90.
Dec 31, 2017  |  01:36

Postgame: Pacers Locker Room - Dec. 31, 2017

Dec. 31, 2017 - Darren Collison, Joe Young and Damien Wilkins share their thoughts after a 107-90 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Dec 31, 2017  |  02:27

Postgame: McMillan Press Conference - Dec. 31, 2017

Dec. 31, 2017 - Following the Pacers' 107-90 loss to the Timberwolves on Sunday night, Pacers head coach Nate McMillan spoke to the media.
Dec 31, 2017  |  06:43

Joe Young Sets New Career High

Dec. 31, 2017 - Pacers guard Joe Young set a new career high with 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting (3-of-4 from 3-point range) in a 107-90 loss to the Timberwolves.
Dec 31, 2017  |  01:39

Lance Finds Room

December 31, 2017: Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 31, 2017  |  03:46

Sabonis Gets the Hoop and Harm

December 31, 2017: Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 31, 2017  |  04:28

Bogdanovic Strikes Again

December 31, 2017: Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 31, 2017  |  04:12

Cory Swipes a Pass

December 31, 2017: Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 31, 2017  |  03:27

Sabonis Feeds Jefferson

December 31, 2017: Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 31, 2017  |  03:01

Joe Young Hits From the Corner

December 31, 2017: Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 31, 2017  |  02:25

Turner Swats a Shot

December 31, 2017: Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Dec 31, 2017  |  01:54

Pacers End Year Without a Celebration

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer
@MarkMontieth

In the spirit of the holiday season and the calendar-driven opportunity to focus on fresh starts, we could start by directing your attention to Joe Young's 20 points, or the postgame reaction of Lance Stephenson and Myles Turner.

That will have to wait, however. The primary storyline from the Pacers' 107-90 loss to Minnesota on Sunday has to be the highly undesirable manner in which they capped off the year, not to mention a month that had begun with so much promise. The team that was 16-11 three Sundays earlier after winning its fourth straight game with a spirited overtime victory over Denver finds itself lugging a four-game losing streak and 19-18 record into 2018.

The explanation for the sudden reversal begins with the loss of leading scorer Victor Oladipo, who by the way scored 47 points in that win over Denver on Dec. 10, but hardly ends there. The Pacers aren't defending as enthusiastically, which slows their tempo, which forces them more often into a halfcourt offense, in which they lately have executed poorly. They had a season-low point total and hit less than 40 percent of their field goal attempts for just the second time all season on Sunday, while forcing a season-low eight turnovers.

"We've obviously lost a rhythm," coach Nate McMillan said. "We have to stay together and continue to work. We certainly look like we've lost a little confidence.

"We know we're better than what we've shown in the last week or so."

The Pacers have suffered from slow starts recently, with and without Oladipo, but never like they did it on Sunday. They committed turnovers on their first two possessions and proceeded to miss 12 consecutive shots and commit three more turnovers before finally scoring. Domantas Sabonis' jump hook on a feed from Bojan Bogdanovic with 5:15 left sliced the Timberwolves' lead to 17-2 and drew mock cheers from some fans in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, which was sold out for the second consecutive game.

By then, McMillan had pulled four of his starters from the game. Myles Turner was subbed out with 7:09 left, Darren Collison at 6:45 and Thaddeus Young and Lance Stephenson at 5:28. It wasn't until Collison hit a 19-foot jumper with 4:47 left in the half that a starter contributed something to the score.

That shot pulled the Pacers within six points — they had been within five earlier in the period — but they never threatened beyond that. Down 11 at halftime, they allowed Minnesota another strong start to the second half and were buried under a 29-point deficit after the third quarter.

December figured to be the most favorable month of the season for the Pacers, given the six-game homestand that ran from Dec. 4-15, and the fact 10 of the 15 games would be played at The Fieldhouse. They didn't take advantage as one would have hoped, although four of their first five games in January also will be played at home.

They will take New Year's Day off, then reconvene on Tuesday to prepare for Wednesday's game at Milwaukee, hoping to start anew. The calendar won't do it for them, however. They know the technical reasons for their losing streak, but find it difficult to explain the factors behind them.

"We got to figure it out, man," said Al Jefferson, who played nearly 18 minutes, his first extended appearance since Nov. 8, when he scored 19 points at Detroit.

"We can't blame the coaches, we can't blame the GM, we can't blame the fans, we can't blame nobody. We the ones out there. There's just no effort at all. And that's something you got to have."

"No effort at all" is an exaggeration, of course, but something is lacking. The Pacers appear to be connected emotionally, in games, on the practice court, and in the locker room. When the reserves were making the game respectable in the second quarter on Sunday, the starters on the bench were on their feet cheering. They continued to communicate with one another on the bench, and show no signs of splintering in the locker room.

That's what makes the slow starts and negligent defense and stagnant offense all the more puzzling.

"I don't know, I wish I could identify it," said Damien Wilkins, who played a season-high 27 1/2 minutes. "We just need more of a sense of urgency. We need to get our confidence. I don't think we've lost it, but we're playing like we've lost it.

"Who knows what the answers are. If we knew the answers, we would have picked it up four games ago."

The best individual story of the losing streak has been Joe Young, the third-year, third-string point guard who has taken advantage of enhanced opportunities. Young had averaged 5.3 points in the three games prior to Sunday, and played the best overall game of his career against the Timberwolves. He hit 7-of-11 field goal attempts, including 3-of-4 3-pointers on his way to his career-high point total, and grabbed a career-high five rebounds.

"Al Jefferson told me, you've got to be ready at all times," said Young, who has sat the bench in 16 games this season and had not scored in double figures since Dec. 5, 2016. "Just being ready, being patient, not pressuring myself. Just being ready, that's all it is. Coach is trusting me to bring intensity.

"But it's all about my team. It's not about what I did, it's about getting better and getting back on the winning road."

Perhaps the path toward that road is through the tunnel under Delaware St. toward the St. Vincent Center practice facility. That's where Stephenson and Turner were said to have headed after the game, to get up shots. Stephenson, who had averaged 17 points while starting in place of Oladipo, finished with just five points on 2-of-9 shooting. Turner was worse, missing all five shots and committing four fouls and three turnovers in 19 minutes. His only point came on a free throw after a technical foul on the Timberwolves, and even that was questionable. That task traditionally falls to the player in the game with the best free throw percentage, and it wasn't Turner.

Asked about Turner's performance at the end of his postgame press conference, McMillan was succinct.

"I don't have an explanation for it," he said.

Nor do the Pacers have much of an explanation for their recent play. They've proven they can win this season, and they've already broken one four-game losing streak. It's just a matter of regaining the approach that had their fan base so excited just a few weeks ago. That, and getting Oladipo out of his street clothes and back in uniform.

"Victor's a big piece of what we do, but we still have guys in here who can make plays," Wilkins said. "There's not one person in here who's Victor, but collectively as a group we can make up for what we've lost in him so far. We've just got to believe we can do that."


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Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.

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