In the Frank Vogel era, the Pacers have epitomized consistency and solid play through the first three quarters, but have had, as has been the case all season, continuous struggles in the fourth. Tonight, they got to try it another way. Through three quarters, the Pacers were slow, apathetic, and seemed disinterested, but as soon as the clock rolled to the final 12 minutes, the Pacers pushed the accelerator to the floor, and run away with a double digit victory against a feisty Timberwolves team.
If there was any inclination the Pacers were going to struggle so mightily against Minnesota, it wasn’t so easy to see at the beginning. Mike Dunleavy was unstoppable. He not only scored 14 points on 4-4 shooting, but he also lost four points by stepping out of bounds on a three pointer and taking a disappointing step forward on a three point foul. The result led to a quick Pacers lead, but in addition to the points, Dunleavy was quickly saddled with two fouls on Corey Brewer.
From there, the Timberwolves took charge, using Lazar Hayward and Sebastian Telfair to open up lead for the visiting time, briefly erased by a buzzer beating three by none other than Paul George. Minnesota continued to push in the second quarter, but nine straight Pacer points from Danny Granger (including some nice play for George) gave the Pacers a small lead. But failure to keep the Wolves off the offensive glass and the scoreboard, in addition to costly turnover after costly turnover gave the visiting team a halftime lead.
Minnesota would come out in the third quarter and push their lead to a game high 9 points. Defensive lapses and lackluster Pacers energy defined not only that stretch, but the entire third quarter. Every time the team would manage to piece together a small run, the Timberwolves were there to push back. Minny’s play inside was ferocious and there was little the Pacers could do against their frontline on either side of the ball. It all led to, the first time in Vogel’s tenure, a deficit heading into the fourth quarter.
Desperately looking for a hero, A.J. Price came to the rescue, scoring on 8 of Indiana’s first ten fourth quarter points, including assisting on the other two. Price’s never say die attitude erased Minnesota’s seven point lead in the blink of an eye. From there, Dahntay Jones took over. And did he ever. Jones’s points at the free throw line put Indiana up, and he made sure the team was going to stay up for good. Jones and Price orchestrated a masterful fourth quarter comeback that gave Indiana a huge win.
After the jump, anyone talk to Peyton about the comeback yet?
- Dahntay Jones, as mentioned, led the way in the fourth quarter. Not only did he score all 19 points of his points in the fourth, but did so on 6-7 shooting including a pair of three pointers, doubling his total on the season. Jones also brought a change in defense with him. The Pacers were struggling all night in containing the Timberwolves, and Jones helped with that in the fourth.
- A.J. Price ended up receiving just 1% in Fox Sports Indiana’s text poll on player of the game, but that’s shortchanging him a lot. Not only did Price give the Pacers one of their only signs of life all night, but his start in the fourth quarter opened the door for D.Jones to explode the way he did. Jones may have been the closer, but without a good setup man tonight, there may be no glory for Jones.
- Paul George put a great effort forth tonight. He continued to shoot well inside (his long distance shooting still needs some work…), and made plays on both sides of the ball. You can tell he’s putting it all together. For a 20-year-old rookie to be looking to make the plays he does, much less with such tenacity, it’s a good sign as he grows. His lone three point make, a buzzer beater at the end of the first was something noteworthy. He’s been struggling from deep, but he has no fear in taking any shot at any time. And at the rate he’s putting it in, go for it.
- Tyler Hansbrough had a rough night. But rough with Tyler is never what he puts up in his box score. He came away with a solid 14 and 5, but kept fighting with Kevin Love all night. He got to the line six times and it felt like he got no call. His tenacity is unrivaled; no matter what kind of night he has, it’s never going to slow him down. Josh McRoberts continued to prove his value in athleticism and ball handling as well. His fourth quarter block on Love that turned into a D.Jones three pointer effectively put the game on ice, as Minnesota would come no closer the rest of the night.
- Mike Dunleavy did start with 14 points on 4-4 shooting, but foul trouble really saddled his contributions. He ended up with 19 minutes, and finished with just one more point on two more attempts the rest of the night. Darren Collison and Roy Hibbert, both having played well of late, really struggled tonight. Hibbert was effectively cancelled out by Minnesota’s front line, and Collison couldn’t get anything going anywhere. Collison ended up with 6 assists and 5 boards, but did have some defensive lapses.
- Frank Vogel played his rotations well. Despite heavy struggles from the second unit in the first half, he kept his faith and was rewarded by their play in the fourth quarter. Not caught up in minutes, he stuck with them for extended time, squeezing every ounce out of them he could before switching back to the starters for the final stretch.
- Kevin Love lived up to the billing. Out in Minnesota, he’s not a highly visible player, but his tenacity and fight were on full display tonight. He finished with 21 points and 15 boards and his rebounding numbers aren’t to be slept on. Where some players know where to be for rebounds and can rack them up, Love lives for rebounds in a way players just don’t anymore; it’s no wonder he’s on pace to be the first player since Moses Malone to average 21-15.
The Pacers improve to 6-1 in Vogel’s tenure, 7-2 since their six game skid. Indiana not only overcame a sluggish game, but did so in impressive fashion. It becomes redundant to say "they’ve got to play more consistent if they expect to keep winning," when they in fact, keep winning regardless of 48 minute basketball. The competition hasn’t be stiff, but for a team that sat at 17-27 just two weeks earlier, none of these games should be gimmes.
From here, the Pacers get to put this to the test with three road games in their next four. Milwaukee, Detroit, and Washington aren’t world beaters, but all capable of doing to Indiana what they’ve done to similar opponents at home. Including Miami, it’s a crucial four game stretch when looking at the long term outlook of this season, which begins tomorrow night in Milwaukee.