Without having much of an answer on the defensive end, the Indiana Pacers saw their losing streak extend to six against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Pacers had some bright and encouraging performances, but a scorching shooting night from Minnesota and Anthony Edwards, it was a tough hill to climb without a complete team effort to carry them over the hump.
The Pacers found out early how easily they were able to score against the Timberwolves, but unfortunately for Indiana, the feeling the mutual. The Pacers were able to get off to another quick start, putting up 37 in the first quarter, but despite leading by as many as 10 in the quarter, the Wolves had cut the lead to just four at the end of the first.
Both teams shot around 52% in the quarter, with Minnesota’s four extra turnovers making up the difference. That wouldn’t carry over into the second as Edwards scored the first eight of the quarter to give Minnesota their first lead. Poor shooting in the quarter compounded Indiana’s defensive issues as things quickly spiraled out of control, the Timberwolves going up by 12 midway through the quarter.
Tremendous play from Oshae Brissett, Lance Stephenson, and Tyrese Haliburton helped bring the Pacers back to within four, but each step forward was met with offsetting struggles, especially when Minnesota’s defense stepped up to close out the half, scoring 74 and leading again by 12.
The Timberwolves raced out of the break, hitting three threes, including two from Edwards to outscore Indiana 13-7 to open the period. Karl-Anthony Towns’s fourth foul early in the quarter helped Indiana find some defensive stops and while Edwards wasn’t slowing down, hitting two more threes, the trio of Haliburton, Brissett, and Stephenson again lifted the Indiana offense to slice into the lead.
After getting fouled on a three point shot, Jalen Smith hit all three foul shots to make it a 93-90 game, capping a 19-6 run that put Indiana right back in the game. Edwards, and Minnesota’s three point shooting in general, kept the Pacers at bay even as Haliburton closed out the quarter with a layup.
In the fourth, Towns’s return once again caused extra problems for the Pacers defense, but when he went back to the bench with his fifth foul, the Wolves had an answer with D’Angelo Russell extending the lead out to nine with five minutes remaining. Minnesota’s three point shooting may have kept Indiana just out of reach, but Haliburton’s shooting kept the door open.
With 2:13 remaining, he hit his sixth of the night off of Brissett’s seventh offensive rebound, cutting the lead to six. After getting a stop courtesy of a Jaden McDaniels miss at the rim, the Pacers had Buddy Hield wide open for a three point attempt to cut it to three. However, the shot didn’t go, capping off Hield’s own notable three point shooting night in the opposite direction.
That miss would more or less put a cap on the game, the 12th three point miss by Hield, who shot 1-13 from deep. Hield’s night was a particular kind of struggle for the Pacers that needed some wing help after Chris Duarte left the game early with a sore big toe. Though he did find success inside, going 5-6 inside the arc, scoring 13, nothing else went right for him, between poor shooting and headscratching decisions.
Struggles for Goga Bitadze also continued. He finished with seven points, three rebounds, and two blocks, but his positive stretches were few and far between. That forced extra minutes from Tristan Thompson, who had just a single point on 0-3 shooting. Beyond that, however, there were a lot of positives from individual players, especially on offense.
Brissett and Haliburton each led the way with 22 points, ecah finishing with double doubles. Brissett got things going early, hitting a pair of threes. Though his shot went a bit awry from there, his work on the glass was phenomenal. He led the way with 13 rebounds, pulling in seven of Indiana’s 22 on the offensive end.
OSHAE WITH THE FOLLOW— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) February 13, 2022
he has 18 PTS in the first half. pic.twitter.com/IORajVhBbi
Brissett wasn’t alone in dominating the offensive glass. Five of Smith’s 12 came off of Indiana misses while Terry Taylor had four of his five in that position. Smith in particular had an excellent game, scoring 17 points on 6-10 shooting, 11 coming in the third. Taylor finished with 10 in 13 minutes.
Haliburton’s 22 points were bolstered by a Pacers season high 16 assists. Though there were some misguided passes that mostly ricocheted harmlessly off of teammates’ heads, many of his passes were marvels, setting up his teammates in excellent position to put points on the board.
As well as he did setting guys up, it was also one of the nights when it’s easy to see how far he has to go in terms of looking for his own shot in lieu of the extra pass. Haliburton hit four of his six threes unassisted. He also played very well alongside Stephenson, who had 21 points and four assists. Their back and forth action moved the ball extremely well, ultimately resulting in seven Stephenson points.
Tonight’s game was ultimately lost at the three point line. The Timberwolves shot 18-34 for the night, putting in an answer anytime the Pacers looked to make a run. Edwards in particular had it in for Indiana tonight, hitting seven of his 13, a credit to Haliburton that he was able to mostly go blow-for-blow in that area.
Though Indiana’s defense what could be described as a struggle at best, they did a solid job limiting Minnesota’s success in the paint in the second half. The Wolves had just 16 paint points in the second half after allowing 34 in the first half. That didn’t ultimately do much to stop them from winning the points off turnover battle (22-11) and fast break points (24-17), but it was nice step forward for a team that’s allowed an average of 58 paint points in the previous five games.
Two games remain for the Pacers prior to the All-Star break, but snapping their losing streak prior to that will be a tall order for at least Tuesday night’s game when they hit the road to face the Milwaukee Bucks on the first night of a back-to-back.