GAME RECAP: Pacers 116, Timberwolves 114

Indiana edges the Minnesota, 116-114, as T.J. Warren scores 28 points and adds 5 rebounds in the win.

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GAME RECAP: Pacers 116, Timberwolves 114

Indiana edges the Minnesota, 116-114, as T.J. Warren scores 28 points and adds 5 rebounds in the win.
Jan 17, 2020  |  00:01

Postgame: Pacers Locker Room - Jan. 17, 2020

January 17, 2020 - Doug McDermott, T.J. Warren and Myles Turner respond to the 116-114 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves Friday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Jan 17, 2020  |  01:29

MALCOLM BROGDON

Malcolm Brogdon Lets It Fly to Win
Jan 17, 2020  |  00:10

Domas Denial

Domantas Sabonis Denies the Timberwolves
Jan 17, 2020  |  00:11

TJ Warren with 15 Points in the 3rd Quarter vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

T.J. Warren with a strong quarter that keeps the Pacers ahead of the Timberwolves
Jan 17, 2020  |  00:01

Aaron Back and Behind

Aaron Holiday Shoots From Behind
Jan 17, 2020  |  00:12

Domas Knocks Down 2

Domantas Sabonis Knocks Down 2
Jan 17, 2020  |  00:09

Holiday to Holiday to Bucket

Aaron Holiday to Justin Holiday to the Bucket
Jan 17, 2020  |  00:08

Myles Shows Up

Myles Turner Shows Up with a Big Slam
Jan 17, 2020  |  00:09

Warren. Again.

T.J. Warren on Fire
Jan 17, 2020  |  00:06

Lamb Taps the Glass

Jeremy Lamb Taps the Glass
Jan 17, 2020  |  00:08

Warren Rainbow

T.J. Warren Hits a Rainbow
Jan 17, 2020  |  00:07

Blink and You'll Miss It

Blink and You'll Miss T.J. Warren Slamming a 2
Jan 17, 2020  |  00:06

McConnell Hits Quick 2

T.J. McConnell Hits a Quick 2
Jan 17, 2020  |  00:07

Aaron Holiday Beats the Buzzer

Aaron Holiday Beats the Buzzer
Jan 17, 2020  |  00:16

Doug with the Deep 3

Doug McDermott with the Deep 3
Jan 17, 2020  |  00:10

McConnell Buckets From Behind

T.J. McConnell Hits Buckets From Behind
Jan 17, 2020  |  00:10

Lamb Works the Paint

Jeremy Lamb Works the Paint
Jan 17, 2020  |  00:09

Brogdon Steps Back

Malcolm Brogdon Steps Back for 3
Jan 17, 2020  |  00:07

Domas Floats It Up

Domantas Sabonis Floats Up a 2
Jan 17, 2020  |  00:11

Pacers Rely on Warren's Unconventional Approach

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer
@MarkMontieth

Not necessarily by design, and for better or worse, the Pacers are defying offensive analytics. While most NBA teams want to feast on as many 3-pointers and layups as they can manage, the Pacers don't hide from a steady and dependable diet of two-pointers from the mid-range game.

They have T.J. Warren to thank for that mostly. The forward gift-wrapped and sent to them from Phoenix over the summer has helped make them one of the more surprising teams in the NBA with an out-of-fashion but effective arsenal of scoring weapons that are learned but not taught.

"He can score any way possible," Jeremy Lamb said after Warren scored 28 points to lead the Pacers to a 116-114 victory over Minnesota on Friday. "Off the dribble. Catch and shoot. Floaters. Threes. Pull-ups. Post-ups. However you want it, he'll give it to you."

It's invaluable for an offense to have a player who can create and improvise, one who doesn't need plays called for him to get off a shot and can score without having his feet set or his body perfectly aligned. Warren is that guy, hitting well-defended shots while fading backward, drifting sideways or lunging toward the rim, usually off the dribble. He can disappear from the offense at times, such as when the curtain goes up on the Domantas Sabonis-Malcolm Brogdon pick-and-roll show, but he's always lying in wait, a snake in the grass who can rise up and bite a defense at any time.

Friday, for example. When the Pacers jumped to an 18-9 lead over the Timberwolves, five different players scored. Warren, though, wasn't one of them. He had missed a driving layup that drew contract from Karl-Anthony Towns with 9 1/2 minutes left, but otherwise was invisible in the offense. He scored just one field goal in the first quarter, a midrange jumper with 4 1/2 minutes left after he dribbled into the lane, spun to his right and hit a fading mid-range jumper over the 6-foot-11 Gorgul Dieng.

Warren got busy in the second quarter after re-entering the game with 4:38 left in the half. He got a layup when he found a seam in the defense, drove, mishandled the dribble slightly, but still scored while sandwiched between Josh Okogie and Andrew Wiggins. He got another layup when he declined a screen on the left wing from Doug McDermott and improvised a backdoor cut along the left baseline. He added another layup in transition, and then closed the half with a 3-pointer in transition.

The third quarter neatly summarized his role in the offense, as he hit 5-of-7 shots and scored 15 points. He hit a 3-pointer on Brogdon's drive and kick from the opposite side, then added another 3-pointer that became a four-point play when he cut into the lane, reversed to the left corner, took a pass from Brogdon, and drew a foul. He hit an 18-foot jumper when he took Brogdon's pass, dribbled left off Sabonis' screen and scored over Towns' outstretched arm, then a 16-footer after dribbling left off Myles Turner's screen. He finished the period with a 17-foot jumper after dribbling right off Turner's screen.

His final field goal, appropriately, came, when he dribbled from the right wing into the lane, took a bump from Wiggins and hit a fading shot.

T.J. Warren

Photo Credit: Matt Kryger

"He has such a good knack for scoring," said McDermott, who has a more classic coach's-son offensive game. "Unreal touch around the rim. Sometimes you have no idea how it goes in. I've known him since he's been a freshman in college, he's always played the same way. He's going to get buckets every night."

"He's pretty lethal," added Brogdon. "You give him the ball and you expect him to go get a bucket."

Warren is a product of AAU teams like virtually every American playing in the NBA. Watching him, though you might assume he came off the playgrounds of the inner city. No coach is going to teach or encourage a player to take the shots he takes, but any coach would accept his approach and the baskets that come with it.

Warren says it comes from his "love for the game." He sought out every pickup game possible from grade school on, even jumping into one in the intramural center on campus at the university of North Carolina the night before his North Carolina State team played there. He also has a natural feel for the game, instincts for scoring that make it seem easy for him.

"It's knowing the angles, playing at my pace, continuing to think of creative ways to score and stay aggressive," he said. "It's a combination of confidence and just playing hard basketball. It's comfortable for me, you know? It might not be comfortable for other players.

"It's a real analytical-driven league right now. But I feel the percentages are on my side with those type of shots. Me being able to make those difficult runners, floaters, midrange...I take any shot given to me. I think that's the beauty of my game, being able to capitalize on anything the defense gives me.

"The percentages are on my side."

They are, indeed. Contrary to his unorthodox style that features what some would call "bad shots," Warren is efficient. He's scored 20 or more points in 19 games this season, more than any of the Pacers, but he's hit better than 50 percent from the field in all of them. He's the only Pacer to attempt more than 20 field goals in a game but has done so only three times. One of those was in his 36-point outing at Charlotte, when he hit 15-of-24 shots.

The fact a Pacer rarely takes more than 20 shots reflects the balance and efficiency of a team that has the third-best overall field goal percentage in the league. But it also reflects the challenge that awaits with the arrival of Victor Oladipo, scheduled for Jan. 29th when Chicago comes to Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Oladipo is accustomed to getting shots. He took 20 or more 30 times in his 75 games two seasons ago and did it in 11 of his 36 games last season, peaking at 30 in a homecourt loss to Philadelphia. The trick for the Pacers, particularly him, will be to integrate his athleticism and skill set without disrupting the delicate balance that has enabled them to exceed expectations thus far.

That's for later, though. As of now, Warren's 18.1 scoring average leads the team and he's done it without relying heavily on 3-pointers. He averages 3.2 attempts per game, down one from last season in Phoenix. That's fewer than Brogdon, Turner, Justin Holiday, and McDermott average and ranks seventh on the team on a per-minute basis.

His "true" shooting percentage of .584, which incorporates 3-point and free throw accuracy, is best among the starters and will rise if his 3-point percentage (.378) reaches last season's rate of accuracy (.428). He's trending in that direction, having hit 46 percent of his 3-pointers over the previous nine games.

One other trend might work in his favor. He's shooting better from 3-point range (.391) and the free throw line on the road (.848) than at home this season, and it so happens the Pacers left on Saturday for a five-game Western Conference trip that begins on Sunday in Denver and will proceed with games against Utah, his former team in Phoenix, Golden State, and Portland.

He's heading into some dangerous territories. But he'll make it up as he goes along.


Have a question for Mark? Want it to be on Pacers.com? Email him at askmontieth@gmail.com and you could be featured in his next mailbag.

Mark Montieth's book on the formation and groundbreaking seasons of the Pacers, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," is available in bookstores throughout Indiana and on Amazon.com.

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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