Pacers Power Past Wolves, 109-99
Heading into Wednesday’s game against Indiana, even in defeat this season the Timberwolves had found a way to make each game interesting late in the second half. The Wolves, using a mix of aggressive defense and creativity on the offensive end, have made it difficult each night for opposing teams to pick up victories.
But on Wednesday at Target Center, the Indiana Pacers used a physicality Minnesota has not seen so far this year. The Pacers disrupted the Wolves’ offensive rhythm and out-fought them to loose balls, and in the end Indiana handed Minnesota a 109-99 defeat that felt very different than those in weeks past.
In the end it cost the Wolves their fifth chance at reaching .500 this season.
“I just think we didn’t play well on either end all night long,” coach Rick Adelman said. “They’re very physical, and they took the game right away from us.”
Indiana’s physicality was no secret coming in; Adelman said it was a point of emphasis as the team scouted how to face the Pacers. Still, Indiana used force in the paint and bruising screens on pick and rolls to create openings on the offensive end, and Minnesota’s defenders had difficulty keeping pace.
Forward Danny Granger led the way, scoring 36 points on the night and hitting 5-of-8 shots from 3-point range. He took during stretches of the second half that simply put the game out of reach, including a 17-point effort in the third and 12 more in the fourth.
He hit a pair of 3-pointers midway through the fourth that helped extend Indiana’s lead to 17 at the 6:34 mark, a deficit too much for the Wolves to recover.
“We just couldn’t get stops,” forward Kevin Love said. “Especially because we didn’t shoot a good percentage from the line or from the floor.”
Love again led the way for the Timberwolves with 21 points and 17 rebounds on the night—extending his league-leading double-double total to 20. But Minnesota struggled as a unit offensively and never put together one of their patented late runs like they’ve done so often this season.
This time around, the Pacers (15-6) didn’t allow easy baskets or any form of transition game. Adelman said the Pacers are a strong defensive team in their half-court sets, and he said Minnesota (10-12) didn’t challenge them enough with ball movement. Minnesota shot 37.4 percent from the floor on the night.
“They certainly didn’t play their best game, but they have a bright future and I still think they are going to be a playoff team this year,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “I just believe in Rick Adelman that much and obviously what Kevin Love is doing, they have a lot of good pieces. They’re a good team.”
In the paint, where Love and center Nikola Pekovic have been a powerful combination this season, Indiana went blow for blow all night. Pekovic added a double-double of his own, 13 points and 12 rebounds, but the Pacers continued to muscle their way to the basket and found open looks.
“They like it and they were playing (tough) from the beginning like that,” Pekovic said. “Tough and competing for every ball.”
Minnesota went on a 13-4 run to end the first quarter and took its largest lead of the night heading into the second. But Indiana went on a run of its own late in the second quarter, turning a tie game into a 45-41 lead heading into halftime.
In the second half, Indiana’s physicality started to take its toll. The Wolves shot 8-of-22 in the final quarter and seemed out of rhythm offensively during the final nine minutes of the game.
“I think it’s that physical nature,” Adelman said. “We talked about it beforehand. We said that’s how they’re going to play. They’re going to go inside. They’re going to pound it in at us.”
To go along with Love and Pekovic’s double-doubles, Wolves guard Luke Ridnour finished with 16 points, Michael Beasley added 11 and Ricky Rubio had 10 points and six assists.
For Indiana, guard Darren Collison had 20 points and nine assists, center Roy Hibbert had 15 points and nine rebounds, forward David West had 12 points and eight rebounds and guard Paul George had 10 points. All five Pacers starters scored in double figures, while their bench scored 16 total points.
Love said if the team is going to make it to the .500 mark, the Wolves need to put together a more well-rounded game on both ends of the floor.
“We were pretty lethargic tonight,” Love said. “We never really got into a rhythm. The first half we shot in the low 30s. We got into the high 30s in the second half, but we just didn’t play well. We had everyone back, we had enough bodies, but we didn’t really get into a good rhythm.”
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