Pacers 98, Timberwolves 84: Wolves stuck in neutral (it’s a car pun)

Zach Harper —  November 26, 2013 — 16 Comments

Pacers

I feel like every time I write about this matchup between the Wolves and Pacers, I end up with the same recap.

This is a terrible matchup for the Wolves. I don’t think they have too many bad match-ups at this point in the roster construction process. Put them against most any team in the league and I like their chances of remaining competitive. Throw the Thunder, Spurs, Clippers, and even the Heat at the Wolves and I think we’ll get a great showdown. This Wolves team can get out and create space for itself. They can play physical basketball that gets them to the free throw line and gets in the head of the other team, causing them to get even more space as to not get into foul trouble. I really do believe the Wolves can play with just about anybody.

They just can’t stick with this Indiana team for an entire 48 minutes, especially not now that the Pacers have a bench that can score and a wing that can take over.

It’s weird thinking this Wolves team can’t play physical with a team like the Pacers because that’s what the Wolves’ frontcourt does. Hell, that’s even what Kevin Martin does. He throws his body into defenders, draws fouls (many of them questionable), and throws a defender completely off kilter. Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic throw their shoulders and elbows into defenders to draw fouls and create space. They can pretty much do whatever they want on the boards to control the glass for key stretches and keep possessions alive. And they’re pretty solid at finding ways to get second change points for themselves.

However, there is playing physical basketball and there is playing bully ball like the Pacers do. And I don’t mean that pejoratively. David West and Roy Hibbert just beat the crap out of you in the most legal of ways. They’re not afraid to make contact after they’ve been whistled for a foul on the previous play. You want to bang with David West in the post? It’s like trying to move a tank. Nikola Pekovic has to alter his shots even when Roy Hibbert is swatting at it because the threat of such a great rim protector is always in your mind. Even when perimeter players got to the basket last night, you saw them rushing shots at the rim because Hibbert’s reputation is that of an eraser now.

The brute force of the Wolves isn’t that of the brute force of the Pacers, which means they have to adjust and find a different way to create space. That’s hard to do against the Pacers because every single player in that rotation seems to have Go Go Gadget arms. The wingspans of this team are just damn impressive. They shrink the court and don’t need to run a lot of help at scorers because they have the length to make up for any missteps.

This makes the open shooting for the Wolves in a game like this all the more important. They have to find a way to knock down open shots and we didn’t see that from them. Maybe the style Indiana hits you with just takes you out of your rhythm most nights, making it tough to knock down even open jumpers. Regardless of what the reason was for the misses, the Wolves eventually broke after bending for almost three quarters. Some helpful officiating and getting to the free throw line helped them stay in the game for as long as they did. The Pacers were also pretty sloppy with the basketball and that allowed them to struggle after a 20-point, six-minute start to the game.

Eventually, the better team on their home court won out and it’s hard to be all that salty about the loss for the Wolves. Fifth game in seven nights didn’t help but they probably lose this game in Indiana even with a couple days of rest. The Pacers did what they do. They took away the 3-point line, they took away the paint, and they took away the transition game for the Wolves. What are you left with? Contested shots and no rhythm for the game. The Wolves fought and tried to do what they could to give themselves a chance to steal this game but you can only fight so long against Indiana before the bullies come out and take your lunch money.

The Wolves are 8-8 and people are starting to believe it’s time to panic. I’m looking at the schedule and I’m actually not worried. The Wolves are going to be a few games below .500 in a couple games. They’ll climb back over .500 by the end of December. They’ll be 10 games over .500 by the end of January ad the panic of right now will look silly. That’s assuming health, of course, but I firmly believe this team is going to be fine. Just be glad they don’t have to play the Pacers more than twice a year.

Zach Harper

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16 responses to Pacers 98, Timberwolves 84: Wolves stuck in neutral (it’s a car pun)

  1. while all those points are what make the pacers a tough match on a nightly basis, it’s at the point where they killed us early. jj coming in to replace rubio with foul trouble created a huge mismatch for george hill and he took advantage. there’s nowhere to hide jj against a team like this.

  2. I’m going to disagree with that point a lot. Hill scored 19 of his 26 points with Rubio on the court. He scored 7 with Rubio off the court. Five of those came against Barea and two came in transition with Brewer chasing Hill. Barea was back on defense covering Brewer’s man.

  3. not disagreeing with that or laying the blame on jj (i’m not a jj hater, i actually love how hard he plays), but hill was able to get off way too easily in the first quarter and into a really good rhythm. after rubio left at the 7:30 mark, he quickly dropped a three and got another couple good looks, including a post-up.

    apologies for immediately going at jj’s throat. my larger point is that george hill killed us and is a reflection of the pacers physicality at all five spots. love teams that are able to play a skilled combo guard because of the presence of other solid ball handlers. reminds of how ron harper allowed the bulls and lakers to play big at the guard spots. billups era pistons too.

    also, my viewing level trailed off and i began watching the side-by-side bound 2 and bound 3 videos in the fourth quarter.

  4. I am not panicking – this is a good team, not a great one, and on the whole they’ve won games you would expect them to win and lost games you would think they could or should lose. If that causes a person to panic that probably says more about that person than the team. 10 games above .500 by end of January seems pretty optimistic to me though — it assumes they can rip off something like a 20-6 run or thereabouts after they play the tough string against Dallas, OKC, SAS and Miami during the first week of December, which seems like a tall order for a young team even given their softish schedule in December and January. Somewhere around 26-21 as of January 31 seems right to me. However, it will be very interesting to see how the Wolves play those tough four games in early December, I think how they handle those games, win or lose, will test the team and K-Love as its leader.

  5. I completely agree Zach! I saw the pacers on the schedule and knew this was our toughest game yet. I am glad to not be the only one still optimistic about this Wolves team. They have a tough early schedule, but that makes the rest feel so much easier.

  6. Well, from where I’m standing, this team is winning the games they are supposed to win in team fashion, but they are losing the games where Love needs to have a big game, or when Rubio needs to have a big game, in individual fashion.

    For one thing, I keep seeing Love get open looks at the arc, and then making the “extra pass” to somebody who isn’t open. He’s got to shoot those.

    Against the Pacers, Love went for 17 and 20, with 4 offensive boards. I’d like to see Love getting 1 offensive board and shooting the ball better, and more threes, something like 14 and 29.

    But in the end, the team will go where Rubio takes them. If he’s consistently around that double-double points and assists, they should win. If he’s going for 7 and 7, they should lose. And if he keeps getting burned by athletic point guards, the Wolves really can’t beat any good teams.

  7. The difference in these games the Wolves are losing and the ones we’re blowing teams out is good teams have good benches. The Wolves play their starters more than any other team in the league and when they run up against a solid team like the Pacers those starters have to either be spot on with their game or we will lose because we have no help coming off the bench to pick them up.

    I disagree with Zach. If we do not get better play and production off of the bench this team will burn out and you can forget that rosey 10 games over 500 projection. The Wolves will hover around the 500 mark all season and need some help getting into the playoffs.

    Also do not count on injured players to come in to save the day. right now the projection is mid to late December before Chase is back. Add in another 3 weeks just to get him up to speed and even then you don’t know for sure if he’ll hold up.

    I know that’s a lot of pessimism after just 16 games. But it’s 16 games we have seen a trend. We beat the bad teams compete with good teams but come up short in the end because we cannot hold our own when we rest the starters.

    Let’s be real it is what it is we’ve taken the next step from doormats to middle of the pack. The next stone is building a reliable bench.

    back up PG someone not JJ he is really not a PG he is a short streaky SG that sometimes will pass.

    back up SG Shved is non existent.

    back up SF maybe Chase, but right now it’s the new guy or the rookie Hummel.

    back up PF is DC and he is fine.

    back up C a rookie and an injured dude that was never going to score. Neither of them really can. Both can provide some D.

    The rest of that roster is fodder (so is most of what I just listed). that is not going to get it done nor has it. I do not see how you see a 10+ 500 mark unless people either start to play up to the expectations we all had of them going into this season or some changes are made to the roster. It has to come at SG and PG we need reliable options there.

    If we stand pat we will miss the playoffs. I see assets in JJ and Muhammad, and as I mentioned before maybe you can get something done with Brooklyn and Shved if you add a third team. But I do not see any of those guys as options for picking up the starters when they’re not on their game on any particular night.

  8. Is Rick Adelman on the hot seat? After watching the first 10 games how we are at .500 is beyond me. Seems like massive underachieving. Adleman should be fired at this rate..

  9. 47-10 that was the bench scoring in tonight’s loss against Denver. Much shorter than my last post but the statement remains the same.

  10. Firing Adelman is possibly the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard in a long time. And yeah bench scoring was horrible but honestly we can’t stop anybody on defense. Going into this season it was widely known as the big weakness of this team. It still is. We’ll stay around .500 if we’re in a shoot out every night.

  11. The T-wolves are massively underachieving. JJ Barea, Daunte Cunningham, Alexy Shevd and the rest of the bench are all underachieiving. Despite the great signings of Corey Brewer and Kevin Martin, a healthy Pek, Rubio, and K Love the T Wolves are below .500. Fire Adelman and get a real coach in for the Wolves. In 3 years what has Adelman done for the Wolves? If he does not turn this around let him go.

  12. Matt J, Adelman is a real coach. Any claim contrary to that statement says more about you than it does about Adelman.

  13. Personal attacks is not a way to debate something Farnsworth. Every single team in the NBA has a real coach by definition. Examining the facts. Adelman has not had a good win-loss record as T-wolves coach. I really like the K-Mart and Corey Brewer signings and feel the personnel led by Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, and Pekovic is one of the best personnel groups in the NBA. Yet the Twolves are not even on track to make the playoffs. I do not like how Adelman uses Rubio and Pekovic – I think he does not make much use of their talents. I also think the bench should be a lot better based on last year where several of the bench players were contributing more, but this year they are not. He is doing a shoddy job of developing players. Kevin Williams and Alexy Shevd are great examples of this shoddy development.

  14. Who’s Kevin Williams?

  15. Defensive tackle for the Vikings. Adelman must be moonlighting…

  16. I agree with everything farnorth says.

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