Nowadays it's not too often you can find a team that has a worse record than the Indiana Pacers. Just the blue and gold's luck, one of those teams found themselves in Indianapolis tonight. With the Timberwolves sitting at 7-27, Indiana finally had a chance to play the favorites at Conseco.
The new year is upon us, and already, some changes have been made for the first game of the year despite numerous carry overs. Josh McRoberts found himself a new haircut and a starting gig, getting his first career start thanks to his past two games. But his start comes because the same five players were out again, including Troy Murphy and Tyler Hansbrough.
For the Pacers, coming out sharp and not falling into a big hole was necessary. They were able to do just that tonight. Even though they didn't explode out of the gate, they were able to get a huge lift from Mike Dunleavy to go opposite a slow start for the T'Wolves. The Pacers pulled out to a nine point lead in the first quarter before Minnesota staged a small comeback of their own, ending the quarter down six to Indiana.
Indiana stormed out in the second quarter to find a hat trick of three pointers to help push their lead to 21 early in the second quarter. Indiana would build their lead up to 29 thanks to some great play from Roy Hibbert, Brandon Rush, and Co. taking a 28-point lead into the half. The Pacers came out of the half playing much more free and lax, allowing Minnesota to play at their will. But the offense of Indiana didn't slow down much early in the third quarter. A Pacers dry spell did allow the Timberwolves to come within 15 in the third quarter following a 12-0 run. Minnesota finished up the quarter with 40 points, and down only 13.
The Pacers and Wolves stumbled out in the fourth quarter, before a couple of head's up plays by Dahntay Jones got the team a very important five points to extend the lead to 17 early in the fourth before fouling out with nine minutes to go. Following Jones's exit, the teams would trade baskets before a fast break to Luther Head slam dunk shifted the game back into Indiana's favor before Wayne Ellington scored seven straight for Minny to cut it to 8.
The Wolves would cut it further down to five with under two minutes remaining, with some ugly possessions by Indiana before Luther Head threw up a huge shot to pull it out to three possession with a minute to go. Kevin Love responded with a three point play to cut the lead to four before a patient Roy Hibbert found Earl Watson for a cutting layup to clinch it on a three point play of their own and sink the dagger into Minnesota.
The Pacers were able to close out the game, thanks large in part to the clock winding down fast enough for the Timberwolves furious comeback to fall short to clinch the much needed W. Pacers in double digit wins, some game notes after we jump.
- The Pacers fielded their 12th starting lineup of the year tonight. I wanted to find a correlation with how bad a team is with how many starting lineups they field, but it was hard to draw a conclusion. It still doesn't seem like a move that I'm a big fan of. For the record, the most one starting lineup has hit the floor together: seven times.
- A.J. Price saw himself a step up in the rotation, becoming the first PG off the bench. He responded with 7 points, 5 assists, and zero turnovers in the first half before finishing with 8 and 6 in 14 minutes of action. Meanwhile, T.J. Ford finished with a DNP - Coach's Decision.
- Mike Dunleavy showed up to play in the first quarter, notching eight points en route to 15 for the night, answering his terrible night with a solid all around game for Mike. It's good to see him get some of the shots he was able to get.
- The Pacers pulled out to a 29-point lead in the second quarter, their largest lead of the entire year. Given how many times they've been on the opposite side of that recently, it felt quite refreshing before the Pacers gave back 25 of those points throughout the second half. At least they didn't give up the last four.
- Indiana scored a season high 73 points in the first half. Considering this is the same group that barely broke 80 against Miami a week earlier, there was plenty of joy to be had around. The downside is that Minnesota was able to get 66 of their own in the second. More reason you can't go to sleep in an NBA game.
- Let's give some credit to Brandon Rush, who really stepped up and had a great game again tonight. B.Rush had three triples in the first half alone, and finished with 16 points on 6-11 shooting including four three pointers to get his second straight night over 50%. Brandon was playing with the same confidence he ended last season with.
- How well did Indiana crash the boards in the first half? They allowed 1 offensive rebound to the Timberwolves. How poorly did Indiana crash the boards in the second half? They allowed 11 offensive boards to the Timberwolves. Can't win every battle, I suppose.
- Josh McRoberts got 25 minutes of actions before fouling out late in the fourth. He finished with 7 points and 8 rebounds. McBobs didn't show any lack of superhuman strength in cutting his hair, which was a refreshing sight in case anyone was worried.
- Luther Head had another big game, scoring 21 points on 8-15 shooting. Head is really stepping up as the team's best offensive option, showing his ability to create his own shot, something the Pacers have sorely lacked without Granger in the lineup.
- Roy Hibbert finished with his fourth 20 point game of the year, notching 21 points and 7 boards, including four assists on some impressive passes to open players for big baskets. His awareness is really adding a dimension to Roy's game that could make him a long term solution for Indiana at the C position. You can't say you wouldn't like to see that.
- The Pacers finished with only nine turnovers, including two in the first half. They also allowed only five points off of turnovers, far better than efforts in previous games. Indiana did a tremendous job in the first half of getting back on defense in transition, taking away all fastbreak opportunities for the Timberwolves in order to build up their lead.
Following tonight's win, Indiana turns around for a trip to the Big Apple with the up and down (slightly surging) Knicks. It'd be nice to allow this one to soak in a little longer, but alas, they'll have to go back out and do it again tomorrow. What say we make this win a streak?