The energy and effort was on display early for the Indiana Pacers, jumping all over the Minnesota Timberwolves from tipoff. The Pacers pushed themselves into a 16-point lead late in the first, getting big contributions from both Bojan Bogdanovic and Victor Oladipo in the quarter.
Minnesota looked overwhelmed early, but settled themselves with their bench in the second quarter, closing the gap at 42-42 and eventually taking the lead at 56-55. The Pacers weathered the comeback well, tying the game up at halftime, but an avalanche of Karl-Anthony Towns to start the third helped to eventually push Minnesota to a 79-74 lead, one that could’ve been much worse if not for eight responding points from Oladipo in the third.
Down five, the Pacers responded in a big way, getting out and running, closing out the win on a big 38-8 run that pushed Indiana up to a game high 23 point lead. The Wolves were unable to bring the game any closer than 15, getting the Pacers a much-needed 130-107 win on the road.
The Pacers were lights out all night, taking advantage of a porous defense that was short Jimmy Butler to shoot a franchise record 66.7%. The shots fell, but guys were set up to succeed. As a team, the Pacers had 31 assists, a season high, over half of those coming from Darren Collison, who had 16, his Pacers career high, while scoring 15.
Collison got guys involved at the perfect times, five first quarter assists coming as Indiana jumped out to a 28-12 lead and then six more to help the Pacers close the third on a 24-5 run. On the night, his assists found seven different players, including four apiece to Oladipo and Bogdanovic, but more impressively, had just a single turnover on a night when Indiana was a bit lax with the ball, committing 18 as a team.
Oladipo was a big factor tonight, leading all scorers, scoring 28 points along with Towns. Oladipo leading the way scoring wasn’t a surprise, but did so in an incredibly efficient way, shooting 11-16. Oladipo hit from every range, including a pair of threes. Indiana hit 10 threes on the night, led by Cory Joseph, who had five as part of his 21 point night off bench.
Joseph closed the door on the Wolves with 10 fourth quarter points, including a pair of steals late, leading the team with three. Indiana used live ball turnovers effectively to get out and run, outscoring Minnesota 20-18 in points off turnovers, but rolling over the Wolves 18-6 in fast break points.
Another area in which the Pacers dominated the game was on the glass. Indiana shooting nearly 67% limited the number of rebounding opportunities for the Timberwolves, but it allowed the Pacers to outrebound Minnesota 42-27, leading to a double double from Domantas Sabonis, who had 11 boards to go with 15 points.
Sabonis’s play has been huge in the early games this season; he once again finished with a perfect shooting night at 7-7, also showcasing his own passing skills, dishing five assists. Also impressing early is rookie T.J. Leaf, who reached double figures with 11 points, shooting 50%. Leaf’s shot has been impressive, and he made good from both sides of the floor all night.
The win pushes Indiana to 2-2, securing them their first road win of the season. Minnesota has a lot of talent, but it’s clear this season will have some growing pains and trap games, especially without Butler to settle things down. After a game winner against Oklahoma City, Andrew Wiggins had just seven points, shooting a dreadful 1-6 from the line while committing five fouls of his own.
That may make the Timberwolves vulnerable at times, but it was big for the Pacers to not only take advantage of the situation, but to do so in franchise fashion. Catching an opponent flat-footed will be a little more difficult tomorrow night when the Pacers wrap up their three-game road trip against the Oklahoma City Thunder. It will be a return to OKC for Oladipo and Sabonis and the first matchup of the season against former Pacer Paul George.