The Indiana Pacers reach the halfway point of the season with a win, albeit a tough one, topping the Minnesota Timberwolves late. They took their positive offensive output sans the defense in the first half, slamming it in reverse for the second half, stepping up on the defensive end while their offensive output suffered.
Minnesota took the lead midway through the first, pushing their advantage as high as seven as each response by the Pacers fell short, leading them to trail by six heading into the second. Once there, the Timberwolves continued to light up the Indiana defense, but Domantas Sabonis worked to keep the game from getting out of hand.
He scored 14 straight points to open the fourth, totaling 25 first half points. The necessity of each point can’t be understated; his last bucket could only bring the Pacers to within six at 44-38. Even as the offense began to open up around Sabonis, Indiana still struggled to find any stops. Andrew Wiggins stepped up to close the half, scoring seven to preserve Minnesota’s lead at five.
The game took a stark turn once the second half tipped off. Minnesota missed their first seven shots of the third quarter, but yet Indiana could not get over the hump, trapped by a one-point mountain they struggled to scale throughout the first six minutes of the third. Malcolm Brogdon kicked off a 7-0 run that finally put Indiana on top.
Unfortunately, that five point lead would stall, as Minnesota’s bench gave them some life on the offensive end. After Wiggins closed the second quarter strong, it was Keita Bates-Diop that pushed Minnesota back into the lead, scoring eight points in the final 3:35 to put the Wolves up a point heading into the fourth.
Needing a spark of their own, Doug McDermott took on the scoring load, scoring 10 points in the opening 4:38, helped out by T.J. McConnell who dished to McDermott twice in that stretch, putting Indiana on top 92-87. Again the lead stalled at five when a second chance opportunity from Jarrett Culver made it a three point game with 4:31 remaining.
Once again the Pacers looked to Brogdon in Winning Time, scoring five straight as part of a 7-2 run that put Indiana up by eight. With Minnesota’s defense keying in on Sabonis, Brogdon was free to feast, scoring twice more with under two minutes to go. Up eight, the Pacers were able to nurse their lead despite back-to-back buckets from Gorgui Dieng, wrapping up a hard fought 104-99 victory.
The Pacers held Minnesota to 30.4% shooting in the second half (just 20% in the third), yet their inability to capitalize nearly proved costly. Despite holding the Wolves to 18 third quarter points, they still trailed heading into the fourth, and had a difficult time putting their foot down at the times they did lead in the second half. This included a pair of turnovers around the five minute mark of the fourth, eventually allowing Culver to make it a one score game.
Sabonis led the way for the Pacers with 29 points and 13 rebounds. He shot 13-17 from the field, every single one coming near or inside the restricted area. Sabonis’s first half scoring spree was nearly cut short after he was whistled for his third foul four minutes into the second. Fortunately for the Pacers, the call was overturned following a challenge, keeping him in the game.
The defense adjusting to Sabonis proved favorable for Brogdon in particular. Brogdon scored 10 of his 21 points in the last 4:18 of the game, opened up by Minnesota staying home on pick and rolls. Sabonis only had four second half points, but stayed involved, dishing four of his six assists after the break.
The Pacers finished a woeful 7-23 from three point range, hitting just two triples after halftime. Both came in the fourth, one from McDermott (who was also fouled on a three pointer) and Brogdon, who doubled the lead with a much needed make with 4:18 remaining.
McDermott led the way off the bench with 14. Justin Holiday scored six and while McConnell had just four, he again made an impact as a playmaker, dishing eight assists, six going to Sabonis and McDermott. T.J. Warren was the third starter in double figures with 12. Jeremy Lamb had nine, but bounced back well after a bad game against Philadelphia and Myles Turner scored seven in 23 minutes.
The Pacers improve to 26-15 with the win, one shy of their 41-game mark last year, but well ahead of their preseason expectations without Victor Oladipo. The win also marks their third straight on the road, improving them to 10-10 after stumbling to four straight road losses.
In opening a difficult stretch of six of seven games on the road, all against Western Conference opponents, getting off to a 1-0 start is an encouraging sign. They’ll play their lone home game in the next two weeks on Friday, when they wrap up their season series against these same Timberwolves.