The Indiana Pacers were in cruise control with four minutes remaining in the third. Monta Ellis hit a shot to put Indiana in commanding control against the Minnesota Timberwolves up 87-60. But a pair of layups from the Wolves led Frank Vogel to call a timeout. He recognized that with 16 minutes remaining, the game was far from being over.
From that point, Vogel would've been right to recognize the sea change. Minnesota sliced 10 off the lead heading into the fourth, and once there, a 9-2 Minnesota run made it a 10-point game. A focused and on-point Pacers team suddenly lacked defensive intensity and looked like the team on their fourth game in five nights, not the energetic Timberwolves.
Between a pair of buckets from Glenn Robinson III, the Wolves staged an 8-0 run to cut the lead to four with Robinson stopping the run with a three. Indiana pushed the lead up to nine at 101-92, appearing to once again have the game in control, but bad defensive rotations set up another 8-0 run in the next 90 seconds for Minnesota, with a pair of threes helping to draw the Wolves to within a single point at 101-100 with just over a minute left.
On the following possession, Monta Ellis attacked the rim to give the Pacers a much need run-stopper. Ellis wasn't done, however, following up the shot with the stop of the night, blocking Andre Miller at the rim with 24 seconds left, getting Indiana to the line where C.J. Miles split the free throws to give Indiana a two possession lead. In the end, the Pacers escaped with a 107-103 victory, but did so by the skin of their teeth that was as much about the Pacers as it was the Timberwolves.
Minnesota was led by Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine, who had 26 apiece in the loss, both playing exceptionally well late to help Minnesota have an opportunity to win a game they were all but out of late in the third quarter. Minnesota ended up shooting 50.6% from the floor, but it was key advantages for the Pacers in fast break points (24-11) and points off turnovers (17-10) that kept Minnesota at arm's length late.
Paul George helped pull the Pacers through with 29 points and nine rebounds, shooting 9-10 from the free throw line. Most impressive was that he only turned the ball over once in the game, and the Pacers as a team had just 11 turnovers on the night. Monta Ellis came through with a big night as well, scoring an efficient 24 on 11-17 shooting, but coming through on the defensive end with the block to help seal the game.
C.J. Miles left the game late in the first half after a collision with LaVine, but was cleared to return. His return, however didn't offer up much with him struggling towards an eight point night on 3-10 shooting, nearly missing both of his free throws late, getting a fortuitous bounce on the second attempt to push Indiana's lead to 104-100. Chase Budinger played well off the bench again, scoring six, but dishing five assists.
Glenn Robinson III reached double figures with 11, hitting two key buckets in the fourth, but fighting through some struggles in the middle portions of the quarter with his defense and a turnover. Also, the struggles of Lavoy Allen and Jordan Hill around the rim continues to be a problem, though Allen had one his better games recently with six points on 3-7 shooting.
Ian Mahinmi meanwhile was clearly distracted by the tragedy in Paris this evening, but you wouldn't know it from his play. Mahinmi played well and played hard with 12 points and nine rebounds with four offensive boards, but expressed his heavy heart with Candace Buckner after the game. When tragic events like this take place, it's difficult to feign normality with a game, so it would've been easy for Mahinmi to put tonight's game on the back-burner. Many thoughts go out towards his family, friends, and the loved ones of the victims.
With the Pacers, however, they move to 6-4 on the season, including their second consecutive three game winning streak, moving them to 6-1 in their last seven. The play of Paul George has been a huge boost to Indiana's chances of winning on any given night, but the overall team play has helped get them in the position to close out these wins as they have even if they haven't always been pretty, as tonight's game attested.
A huge test looms for the Pacers, however, when they travel north to face the rival Chicago Bulls on Monday night.