A questionable call on the Indiana Pacers in the final four seconds pushed them into another frustrating loss, but despite whether the Two Minute Report will clear up any potential wrongdoing on Jeff Teague reaching for a flailing Ricky Rubio after Rubio fell into his own teammate, the Pacers put themselves in position to take on another disappointing loss in what amounts to a disappointing season on a bi-nightly basis.
All tied for 5th in the East, the Milwaukee Bucks went on the road and smacked around the Hornets. The Atlanta Hawks overcome an early fourth quarter deficit for a much needed win at home against Phoenix. Even Miami came away with a big road win at the end against Detroit.
The Pacers meanwhile blew a nine-point fourth quarter lead at home to the Minnesota Timberwolves, sending them back to .500 at 37-37.
The Pacers found themselves in a fist fight with the Timberwolves with questionable defense all night, allowing 59 first half points and another 56 in the second half. Paul George scored 37 points, 25 of those coming in the first half, willing the Pacers to a merciful two point deficit at halftime. Minnesota moved ahead by nine in the third when Indiana appeared to find itself, closing the third on a 12-0 run and jumping ahead 104-95 with seven minutes remaining.
Unfortunately for the Pacers, the Wolves were able to adjust their game when shots weren’t falling and began to feast the free throw line. Adding in Rubio’s final three shots, Minnesota outshot Indiana 19-7 in the fourth quarter, scoring 16 of their 28 fourth quarter points at the line.
Rubio was a cool 13-13 from the line on the night, while Karl-Anthony Towns was on display himself, hitting all 10 of his attempts. The free throw difference in the fourth highlighted Indiana’s inefficiency behind the arc, where they were just 5-18 (four of those by George) while the Timberwolves hit nine, five of those coming in the third as part of Minnesota’s push to a nine-point lead.
After a shaky first half, all five starters reached double figures, including a 20 point, 10 assist double double from Teague. Thaddeus Young appeared more at ease with the ball tonight, scoring 14. Myles Turner had 13 of his 15 in the second half, including three big free throws that put Indiana up 114-110 with 44 seconds remaining. Monta Ellis had 19 on a solid shooting night, but was 0-3 from three point range, including the game winner missed.
The injuries to the bench were on display tonight as well. Nate McMillan ran with a nine man rotation, but hustle plays from Rakeem Christmas and Lavoy Allen aside, the bench had just nine points, six of those from C.J. Miles, who went 2-6. Aaron Brooks went scoreless in 10 minutes.
The “easy” portion of Indiana’s schedule saw them lose a pair of home games against two teams that have less combined wins on the road than the Pacers have at home. To reward their staggering mediocrity, the Pacers will be rewarded with three straight road games against three playoff teams, starting tomorrow night against the Memphis Grizzlies on the second night of a back-to-back.
The Pacers, who are 0-7 on the road in the second night of back-to-backs, will be playing in their final back-to-back game of the season. Without something unforeseen happening, they will face a very real possibility of dropping below .500 for the first time since New Year’s Day.