With only 10 players available, the Indiana Pacers went full Resilient Mode to get themselves back into the win column against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Enough went wrong throughout the night that it would have been easy for them to pack it in, but they stuck with it, holding on late for the victory.
A pair of quick threes got the Pacers off on the right foot, but the game quickly shifted in the opposite direction when Darren Collison missed a layup on a turnover, allowing Minnesota to go the other way, tying the game on a 10-4 run and eventually pushing into the lead entirely on the back of Karl-Anthony Towns.
Towns scored 23 points in the first quarter, booting Myles Turner and Kyle O’Quinn from the game with foul trouble and leading Minnesota to close the quarter strong, giving them a nine-point lead after the quarter. Not only did the Pacers not have an answer for Towns, they did themselves no favors by shooting poorly, including numerous shots at the rim.
T.J. Leaf would cut the deficit early in the second quarter, but the Timberwolves once again dragged the game back to double figures halfway through. Indiana finally got some things to go their way in regards to three pointers, hitting three over the next two minutes to cut the lead to four.
The Pacers eventually broke through into the lead with two minutes remaining thanks to Bojan Bogdanovic and Thaddeus Young. The two scored 18 straight points for Indiana, closing the half on a 24-8 run. Not only did Young carry the load offensively, he took on a big defensive task by guarding Towns.
Given the foul troubles, Thaddeus Young was moved to the five to guard him and shook things up by bringing physicality to the table, limiting Towns to just six points in the second quarter. Out of the half, Indiana played in complete control of the game, pushing their lead to 10 on an 8-2 run out of the break.
Up 10, however, the officiating crew decided to make an impression on the game, stringing together an impressive stretch of questionable calls and confusing no-calls which Minnesota to take the lead on a 14-0 run. Nate McMillan drew a technical for the officials turning a blind eye on Towns play in the post, in which out of four potential offensive fouls, he was whistled for just one.
The Pacers stuck together in no small part due to Wesley Matthews, who was there to support Young across the stretch of incredibly difficult no-calls.
The rest of the team got a boost on the court thanks to the play of O’Quinn and Leaf in the second half of the quarter. The duo combined for 16 to close the third, pushing the Pacers ahead 92-90 heading into the fourth. Once there, the teams went back and forth, but tonight Indiana had their closer, getting nine straight from Bogdanovic in Winning Time to help them build a six-point advantage with a minute to go, holding on for the win.
Bogdanovic finished with a Pacers career best 37 points in the win, including 14 in the fourth. It was enough to effectively cancel out the monstrous game from Towns, who finished with 42, but was limited to 13 in the second half thanks to the more physical play brought by Young.
Young would eventually foul out, but was the heart and soul of the Pacers in bringing them back into the game as he often is, finishing with 15 points, hitting three threes with five rebounds, five assists, and three steals despite becoming clearly frustrated with the way the game was being called. Matthews provided not only an emotional boost, but put in three of his own threes to score 12.
Things can change quickly in this league, so quickly in fact, that the Pacers completely flipped the script in three point shooting. After allowing 33 threes the last two games, Minnesota was just 8-26, seven coming between Towns and Anthony Tolliver. The Pacers meanwhile were a scorching 16-27, their second best output of the year, led by Bogdanovic with four.
Things weren’t a lot better for Collison in shooting the ball tonight, but he did a good job moving the ball, finishing with nine assists. His last two came in getting the ball to Bogdanovic down the stretch to seal the win and the Pacers as a team finished with 35 assists. Twelve of those were from Cory Joseph, a bulk of them coming in the second quarter as the Pacers staged their comeback.
Joseph also assisted on four shots to close the third into the fourth to Leaf and O’Quinn. One went to O’Quinn who finished with 10 points and the other three to Leaf on a career night, finishing with a career high 18 points on 7-12 shooting. Not only was Leaf effective offensively, he also stepped into some good defensive plays, including a big time block on Andrew Wiggins. About the only thing he didn’t do well that he normally does was rebounding. He finished with just three.
Rebounding was a major issue for the Pacers all night, however. They were outrebounded 57-34 for the game, including a staggering 22-8 disadvantage on the offensive glass. Collison and Bogdanovic led the team with seven. Turner had just one after being completely taken out of the game by foul trouble.
He finished with just three points, but did have six blocks. Unfortunately, the rebounding advantage was padded in favor of Minnesota on those blocks, as the Timberwolves came up with five of those, playing to their ability to be in the right place for seemingly every 50/50 rebound.
Indiana was able to balance out the rebounding difference with not only three point shooting, but success off of turnovers. The Timberwolves had 19 turnovers, which the Pacers used to outscore them 28-12, including a 22-8 advantage in fast break points. In a game that had its fair share of oddities, it was comforting to see that kind of familiarity.
The Pacers gutted out a game they had to have, keeping them in the third spot in the East even after Philadelphia held on for their own win tonight. The Pacers will be at home again on Saturday when they host the Orlando Magic, another team in the midst of a playoff push, currently sitting in 8th after beating Golden State tonight.