A solid 9-0 start for the Indiana Pacers proved an outlier in an otherwise woeful display against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The last time Indiana saw the Wolves, they looked ill prepared for their first preseason game, but the roles were reversed tonight as the Pacers had little to show after the quick start. Things fell apart in the second quarter, with mounting turnovers, poor defense, and no hustle, with Minnesota running off a 14-0 run to close the half, leaving Indiana scoreless in the final four minutes.
There wasn't much improvement for the Pacers in the second half, with the major news coming out of the quarter was an injury to George Hill, who left the game with a left knee contusion. Hill left the game as Indiana leading scorer with 14 points and five rebounds. The severity of the contusion isn't known, but given Indiana's misfortune with injuries, it's hard to imagine Hill will get any burn in Thursday's preseason finale.
Roy Hibbert opened the game with a purpose, pulling in six rebounds in the opening four minutes, including some great rim protection in the early going. Hibbert had a 10 point third quarter to give Indiana some offensive life, though it did little to close what ballooned up to a 24-point gap. Hibbert wrapped up with 14 points and nine boards, but four turnovers on a night the Pacers committed 21, leading to 26 Minnesota points.
Chris Copeland and Donald Sloan once again proved to be the offensive workload for Indiana, with Sloan leading all scorers with 19 points going 6-9 from the floor, including three threes. Copeland also continued his sharpshooting with three of his own as part of his 17 points. While everything with the Pacers seems to be going in reverse, the play of Sloan and Copeland has been steady on the offensive end.
While Sloan's role won't change much from last year, Copeland is separating himself as a rotation player for the Pacers to open the regular season. While he's playing well offensively, however, there's still not much to take from his defense. Unfortunately for Frank Vogel, the choices aren't exactly there to get choosy. Damjan Rudez found the bottom of the net twice on two threes in six tries but still looks far from ready to take on regular NBA minutes, and Solomon Hill continues to underwhelm on both sides of the floor.
For Hill, it's been a frustrating showing in a preseason the Pacers were hoping he was going to take a step forward to show himself worthy of taking on starting minutes and provide Indiana some defensive anchor. He's done neither, which sets Indiana's wing rotation back in a big way, especially when looking at C.J. Miles, who was 2-9 with five points, fouling out in 20 minutes of action.
If the Pacers do in fact have any interest in Chase Budinger, they saw little tonight to make them shy away from him, with Budinger scoring 12 points on 4-8 shooting including a pair of threes. The Wolves had a lot of good things to take away from tonight, with Ricky Rubio showcasing what might be a jumper and Anthony Bennett leading the way with 17 points.
For the Pacers, however, things continue to trend in the wrong direction. There's been very little encouragement as the preseason has trekked on that the Pacers simply have a roster capable of competing from night to night. And of course, amassing injuries don't help matters much either. With the regular season eight days away, there will be time to get the team patched up for the regular season opener as they have one (second and third unit filled hopefully) preseason game remaining against the Charlotte Hornets.