Pacers 109, Wolves 103: “Pacers made shots”…and Other Stuff Happened

The NBA regular season is too long. We know this for two main reasons:

  1. We don’t need 82 games to determine which teams are the best and most deserving of playoff berths;
  2. The sport is too physically demanding to require so many games of the players.

But the status quo of 82 games is long established and worthy of a gargantuan television contract that is making players and owners wealthier than any people in American sports history. For that reason, it isn’t changing.

In watching, analyzing, and writing about so damn many games, there is a tendency to chalk results up to either inevitability, (“Team A beat Team B because Team A is better”) or, as I found myself doing during last night’s Wolves-Pacers tilt, to one team simply making more shots than the other team.

While there is obvious truth to either of those explanations of many game outcomes, if it all ended there, this whole basketball fandom thing would get really boring really quickly.

So, aside from the fact that the Pacers shot the ball better than the Timberwolves in last night’s 109-103 contest at Target Center, here are a few other explanations for the result:

  • “Both Teams Played Hard.” –Rasheed Wallace, only if he was sarcastically describing the first quarter of last night’s Wolves-Pacers tilt

The first quarter was poorly played by both teams. The Wolves, with KAT being defended by woefully undersized Thaddeus Young, failed to put pressure on the Pacers defense and instead struggled to feed the post quickly (or sometimes at all). During this early stretch when the Pacers were looking sluggish themselves, an opportunity to build an early lead was lost. Almost 5 minutes into the game, the Wolves led 5 to 2, and the low score had much more to do with sloppy offense than gritty D. After the game, Thibs described his team the same way that Donald Trump once described Jeb Bush: “Low energy.” In this climate, that’s a stinging criticism to receive from the coach.

Paul George then started going Full Paul George, and the Pacers played much of the rest of the game from a lead. Had the Wolves started out better, the game would’ve taken on an entirely different feel.

For good measure, here’s Sheed (who made another awesome guest appearance in KG’s Area 21 on TNT last night) explaining to the media that Both Teams Played Hard:

  • Paul George was the best player on the floor.

It’s fun to watch an elite player at his best. That was the consolation prize for Wolves fans who turned out last night to see their own team struggle. Paul George did everything: shoot, drive, pass, and defend. Thibs was asked about George after the game, and specifically whether he is the “prototype” for Andrew Wiggins, the Wolves long-and-athletic young wing. Thibs didn’t really address the specific comparison, but only went out of his way to heap praise on George, a player he has coached with Team USA in the past.

“And it didn’t happen overnight. If you look back at his career, he’s always been a great defender — he had that part from Day 1. Offensively, he’s just grown each year. He’s become a great shooter, he’s got the mid range, he’s got the post up, he’s got the pick-and-roll, he moves without the ball, he’s tough. You know, there’s not much he can’t do. He can hurt you in transition and if you give him any seams or you make body position mistakes against him, he’s clever. I thought he got a couple calls [tonight] that were tricks.”

Pretty much.

George looked unstoppable last night against Wiggins, who at times played pretty decent defense but simply couldn’t smother a 6’9″ player with a point-guard’s handles.

  • Jeff Teague got away with one (I mean, “seven”)

The Wolves did an admirable job of clawing back in this game in the final two minutes. Down by 8 with just 47 seconds left, they managed to cut the deficit to 3 with about 15 seconds left in the game. Against their press defense, Jeff Teague decided to expand the court dimensions about six inches and waltz up the sideline with his feet on the wrong side of the line. The ref appeared to look down at all of this, but allowed the play to go on. Wiggins could’ve been whistled for a foul, but because he wasn’t, it should’ve been Wolves ball with a chance to tie.

Oh well.

In any event, I still think that the outcome is best explained by cold shooting from the Wolves (the box score is prettier than the game was, due to the flurry of 3s and other scores in the last-minute scramble) and the hot Pacers shooting (particularly contested jumpers from George and end-of-shot clock jumpers by his teammates after pretty-good Timberwolves defense).

But those are a few stabs at digging deeper than “The Pacers made shots.”

Wolves play the Nets at home tomorrow night at Target Center.


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2 thoughts on “Pacers 109, Wolves 103: “Pacers made shots”…and Other Stuff Happened

  1. Sadly, while the Pacers were slow out of the gate, the wolves couldn’t put pressure on them with some early scores of their own. Once Paul George got going, it was pretty difficult slogging for our precocious pups. How a team can be so cold in their own gym is pretty mystifying, but our guys seem to toss home court advantage away year after year.

    I thought Minnesota KAT’s bucket, with that amazing amount of english, was the play of the night. Incredible!

    Zack was struggling again from outside, something I thought he could avoid with his picture perfect jump shot, but it looks like he lost that dagger swagger he had gotten almost a year ago. Thibs again let Rush sit and watch the game from the sideline even though Baz and Bjelly shot worse than Zack did from the three point line. Why Thibs ignores what Brandon can bring to the table in certain games, is insane. He talks about free agency, but who would want to play for Thibs when his bench is so short? If he is playing Baz and Bjelly in the hopes of trading them, that is fine, but remember, Rush is only on a one year contract and why in God’s name would he come back?

    Thibs, If you aren’t worried about missing the playoffs again, at least showcase players like Rush, Jones and Hill for trade bait. Mixing those guys in with your Iron 9 once and awhile, may actually provide you some trade options.

  2. I was not able to watch this game as closely as most, but one thing stood out that no one seems to be talking about. Our offense looks terrible. No, I don’t mean we don’t have offensive potency, offensive skills on the roster. I mean, organizationally, our offense looks terrible. It is a problem most games, but this one it was stark. Most of our sets were Rubio bringing the ball up, the guys spreading out and standing in one place and no plan or action. Sometimes Rubio would dribble around the D and Wolves standing like cones trying to find something, an new angle, some accidental action, force a screen to happen, something to throw off the D ever so slightly. In a way it is encouraging, because systematically we are doing so little on offense and our pace isn’t what it should be yet we still score a decent amount. It shows how much individual O talent our players have. But we can’t continue to run this offense and get anywhere, particularly with what a long term work in progress our D is (we had a very inconsistent night again on D, but on many individual possessions played D well).

    So why is this? I do not know and would be interested in hearing others’ ideas (assuming they agree with me that the offense could look a lot better despite the points we are able to put up). My gut feeling on the matter is a combo. Part of it is that the guys no doubt are having troubling running the O properly due to youth. This is exasperated by what Thibs’ offense stubbornly demands of our very young players and taking power to run the offense out of Rubio’s hands (he more or less is the only person on the team who really knows how to run team offense). You see this problem more clearly on D—the players are having a tough time learning Thibs’ D system and it makes for wildly uneven results from moment to moment. But it does seem to be a reasonable NBA D system which the guys aren’t able to do well as of now. But on O there is more going on. They are having a hard time picking up his O system too, but it isn’t so much due to complexity as the uncompromising demands it makes which often go against our players natural abilities and instincts. But in the end, it is a simple, easy system to defend and you see game after game where we score well overall but can easily be stopped when we need to be, in crunch time, when a team chooses to clamp down. So it does seem like a combo between youth not being able to execute properly and just not having a good system that is well coached in place. But that’s just my guess right now. It is a bit hard to watch, particularly knowing our potential on that side of the ball.

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