Don’t make me look bad, Wolves! This should be an easy win....unless it isn’t.
I went back and forth on the subheadline several times before jumping off the cliff. I’ve whispered the words “easy win” in my mind countless times over my life, only to find myself crushed in disappointment and cursing my stupid brain for its overconfidence. We’re Minnesota sports fans. We aren’t accustomed to success and the surge of confidence that a Sunday-night, mapley sweet, last second three-pointer brings.
I want to caution my stupid brain against this new emotion, but with the 2017-2018 Indiana Pacers arriving in Minneapolis on Tuesday night, I can’t seem to help myself. Here’s why:
- Power Rankings
ESPN’s power rankings are compiled through a highly scientific process, akin to U.S. News annual college guide, Princeton Review’s best party schools, and me deciding which is my favorite pizza topping, so naturally I put a ton of weight into their weekly report. On Monday, ESPN had the Wolves ranked as the tenth most powerful team. Conversely, the Pacers were 24th, narrowly beating out dumpster fires known as the Knicks, Bulls, and Suns.
Yes, the power rankings are a completely subjective ranking system, but my brain can’t help itself when seeing the wide gap between those numbers. Of course the tenth ranked team is going to beat the 24th ranked team. That’s why I always pick chalk in my NCAA bracket. And why I always do so well....
- The only P.G. in Indiana is Darren Collison
Paul George is gone, and despite his underwhelming stat line for the Thunder on Sunday (6-20 from the floor, 1-8 from three), he’s been a Wolf killer in the past. Last season he scored 69 points over their two game series, recording his second highest point total for the season in a one-point loss on March 28th. His success against Minnesota could have been attributed to who was guarding him, but we swear that Wiggins is better at defense this season. We swear it!
With PG’s exit, the Pacers are left with a poo-poo platter of young talent, old Wolves, and zero stars. They received Victor Oladipo in the trade with OKC. Victor’s return to Indiana may be the key ingredient that pushes the fifth year player into the next level. It’s only been three games, however, he’s scoring at a higher clip in 2017 with 22.3 points per game. Somebody has to score, I guess.
They also have some tall young talent. In addition to Oladipo, the Pacers received Domantas Sabonis, who’s father continues to haunt my nightmares, from the Thunder. The 6’11”, second year players is averaging 12.3 points on 26.3 minutes and a 63.6% field goal percentage.
Myles Turner looked really good in his first game of the season, putting in 21 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. Unfortunately, Turner will most likely miss the game on Tuesday as he’s dealing with neck soreness and concussion-like symptoms.
- Tainted Timberwolves
The Pacers roster is littered with ex-Wolves. I don’t disparage the characters of any of the following players, some of them are really quite pleasant, but there are some dark memories that are associated with this list of names. My fingers are experiencing the trauma shakes as I type them out:
-Glenn Robinson III
-Al “Black Hole” Jefferson
That last one was tough to get through. It wasn’t his fault that he was the centerpiece of the KG trade, but ‘07 through ‘10 were some tough years. Big Al has taken a tour over his career; from Boston to Minnesota to Utah to Charlotte to Indiana. He’s settled into a new bench role for the Pacers, is either mentoring the young Pacer bigs or secretly trying to steal their minutes, and losing a considerable amount of weight. He’s gone veggie since signing with the team in 2016 and has dropped 40 pounds over that time. New-school diet, same old-school moves. Nicely done, Al.
- Opening Games
The Pacers have not had the most difficult stretch of games to start the season. They earned a win in their first game of the season against the Nets. In a bold move, both teams agreed that All-Star rules would be enforced and no defense was allowed to be played. The final was 140-131 in the Pacers favor.
They’ve dropped the last two against Portland (96-114) and Miami (108-112), while the Timberwolves have played against Western Conference contenders and held their own (these rose colored glasses are nice).
With all of that in mind, I’m still a little nervous. Each win of the opening weekend has been tight, and the Wolves still appear to be in the “figuring it out” zone. We’ve seen Wiggins step up, but I’m still waiting for a giant KAT to emerge or a Buckets to dominate. Maybe Tuesday will be the night for a blowout.
Indiana Pacers (1-2) at Minnesota Timberwolves (2-1)
Target Center -- Minneapolis, Minn.
7 p.m. CST
Projected Starting Lineups
- Jeff Teague
- Andrew Wiggins
- Jimmy Butler
- Taj Gibson
- Karl-Anthony Towns
Injuries: Justin Patton is OUT (foot)
- Darren Collison
- Victor Oladipo
- Bojan Bogdanovich
- Thaddeus Young
- Domantas Sabonis
Injuries: Myles Turner is questionable (concussion)
I think that this could be a bit of a track meet. The Pacers play at a high pace (7th overall) and have been putting up points (8th), however all that high speed offense comes at a price, in the form of a 28th defensive rating. Hopefully, the Wolves can control the pace and pull away in the second half.
Don’t make me look bad! Let me bathe in the warm embrace of confidence.
Wolves 120, Pacers 108