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Pacers 102, Wolves 88: Another Fourth Quarter to Forget

The Wolves take the least amount of three's of any team in the NBA and shoot 32.3 percent from deep (25th), an obvious area for improvement if the rise is to become real in Minneapolis.

Towns contested this shot by Paul George perfectly, leading to a miss in the first half, but PG13 got the last laugh as he scored 8 of his 17 points in the fourth.
Towns contested this shot by Paul George perfectly, leading to a miss in the first half, but PG13 got the last laugh as he scored 8 of his 17 points in the fourth.
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS Christmas break came to an end for the Wolves on Saturday night at Target Center against Paul George and the Indiana Pacers.

Entering the fourth quarter, the Wolves were leading 68-66. Indiana couldn't hit anything from three as they bricked their way to 3-19 from deep, and Paul George was ice cold shooting 3-14. But the Pacers went 6-9 from three in the final frame and ended up running away with the game in crunch time, 102-88.

The Wolves were outscored 36-20 in another fourth quarter to forget.

Shot chart via

Indiana was going to find their stroke from three eventually – they entered the night shooting 37.3 percent from three, good for third in the NBA behind the Warriors and Suns, and ultimately finished 9-26. On the other side, the Wolves still don't shoot or make enough triples to seriously compete in the modern NBA. They finished 4-12 from three and consistently exhibit ineffective floor spacing.

"We made it as hard as we could," Andrew Wiggins said when asked about the difficulties in guarding a superstar wing like Paul George, who scored 18 points on 16 shots and didn't look like himself again as he battles through his December shooting slump (36.4 percent on 19 shots per game). Perhaps his perfect fourth quarter (3-3, 2-2, 8 points) will start to turn things around.

"Good players are going to hit shots," Wiggins concluded. "That's what they get paid to do, that's why they're in the NBA."

Sam Mitchell was also asked about the defensive effort in the fourth quarter tonight. "Defensively, our young guys still have a long way to go," he said. "They made too many mistakes, but we understand that and we've just got to keep working with them.

It's not going to happen overnight. Everybody thinks defense is easy in the NBA. It's hard because all you see is pick and roll, all you see is guys quick enough to beat you off the dribble. Every team in this league's got three to four guys in their lineup at one time that can beat you off the dribble."

For the Wolves, opposing defenses see plenty of drives to the hoop from Wiggins and start packing the paint after a collection of them go down. We also see tons of mid-post isolations. The Pacers double-teamed him with no repercussions in those situations (he still finished with 18 points on 9-18 shooting). Until the Wolves redesign their offense, the three-point disparity and results like tonight will continue more often than not.

Life for Wiggins on the hardwood as a high-usage wing scorer will be anything but easy; for what it's worth he appeared to draw a handful of uncalled fouls when attacking the rim, but when Wiggins puts his head down to drive to the cup – one of his preferred methods of scoring – defenses will continue collapsing and he will either get fouled or be forced into tough shots due to the lack of floor spacing. Kicking the ball out to Tayshaun Prince for 20-foot jumpers, or more than likely pump fakes that lead to additional passes to the nearest perimeter player, are absolutely doing nothing for the offense.

Monta Ellis finished with 22 points and six rebounds in 36 minutes, his second straight 20+ point game and sixth of the season. Indiana reserves outscored the Wolves bench 38-24 tonight, led by Jordan Hill's 12 points. Hill was a game-high +26 in 27 minutes, finishing in double-figures for the fifth straight game. There were a handful of possessions where he went to work on Towns in the paint, being seriously physical with him and ultimately winning the battle with a few smooth hook shots.

Like many games this season, the silver lining to another ugly loss when the game was up for grabs was the performance of Karl-Anthony Towns. He finished with 24 points on 10-16 shooting, his eighth 20+ point game this season. Only Jahlil Okafor (12) has more 20+ scoring efforts as a rookie this season.

Towns had 12 points in the first quarter alone, his second double-digit scoring first quarter of the season, both coming in the last three games. KAT added eight rebounds, three assists, one steal, and one block, but looked absolutely gassed in the last five minutes in his career high 40 minutes of playing time. He also turned the ball over five times, though that number isn't so alarming when considering how often he was asked to carry the load. It probably goes without saying, but a 20 year old rookie simply can't put the entire team on his back every night.

Ricky Rubio's performance shouldn't go ignored in the loss. He finished with 15 points, nine assists, five rebounds, five steals, and five turnovers (from some uncharacteristic possessions). Overall, the game was incredibly sloppy as neither team put a premium on protecting the ball (45 total turnovers) but Rubio was incredibly good.


Kevin Martin received another DNP-CD for the second consecutive game as the organization looks to trade him to open up room for Zach LaVine to progress as the shooting guard of the future.

I wasn't really assuming. I know this pleases the masses, myself included.

Ricky Rubio on the team's defense:

"I think we played really good for three quarters and then in the last quarter we didn't follow the game plan. They were open and making shots. That's what happens when you don't follow the game plan. They get easy looks and they make shots."

On the disappointing loss:

"It's a learning process, but we need to start winning games. Tonight was a good game. We controlled the game really well, then they went on a little run in the fourth quarter and we couldn't control. That's where we've got to lock in and know what to do."

On what the team is learning in these tough losses:

"Details matter. Until we learn that, we're not going to win games. Every single detail. You think it's not a big deal, but help the helper, or being one step forward, or whatever. It makes a big difference. In this league, if you make a little mistake, you're going to pay."

Paul George on having bigs on the floor in the fourth quarter...

"It helps a lot. With a big lineup, I just know where the guys are at. It's much more familiar for me. The spacing works better for me. It just feels more comfortable, more natural when there's two bigs out there. I just know where guys want to be at."

Sounds like a player that doesn't want to play as much small ball.

PG13 on winning the game:

"It was huge, especially losing three games and losing them close. Some games got out of hand late, but this one was very important. Especially losing to a sub-500 team at home and then having a game where we should have won coming into this one. It was good that we were able to get the job done."

"Snapping a losing streak always gives you confidence," George continued. "The biggest thing was guys setting me up, I was able to just catch and shoot and make it easy on myself."

Chase Budinger on playing his former team:

"Any time you face a former team, you want to beat that team a little more. I'm just happy we got the win tonight. It feels good, it feels good to beat them both times we played them."

"It was kind of weird coming in and coming [to the visitor's locker room] instead of keep walking, but it's always good seeing familiar faces and seeing training staff - especially because I was around them a lot when I was here, seeing my ex-teammate and stuff like that. It was good seeing everybody."

On the fourth quarter:

"We got some key stops. We were able to get some easy baskets out in transition and then just executing the offense. We got some layups when we ran our plays and then got some open threes. [Andrew Wiggins] is a great player, he's tough to guard. It just feels good when you go in and you spark a little run. It just feels good to do that."

Frank Vogel on how Paul George hit shots late in the game:

"Because he's Paul George and he's a heck of a player. He was able to get some separation on those plays."

At least Wiggins showed the importance of following your shot ... this play was amazing:

Until next time. If you're like me, staring at Towns' basketball reference page will provide enough distraction for now.