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Pacers 130, Wolves 107: There is No Defense

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An atrocious effort by the Wolves in a disappointing home loss to the Pacers.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Minnesota Timberwolves Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

It was announced before the game that Jimmy Butler would be out due to a respiratory infection. That was merely the first piece of bad news on a night that saw plenty of it as the Pacers absolutely ran the Wolves out of the gym, 130-107.

During a first quarter in which the Pacers built a 16 point lead, I tweeted this:

And, with the exception of the second quarter, this pretty much describes the game.

Jimmy Butler’s absence is no excuse for what was an atrocious effort. All night the Pacers pushed the pace, beat the Wolves up the court, and converted easy opportunities. It didn’t help that the Wolves were missing shots around the rim, especially early in the game, which unbalanced the floor and made the fast breaks easier for Indiana, but ultimately their lack of commitment to getting back and defending with any toughness was the Wolves downfall tonight.

And frankly, it was depressingly reminiscent of past years. They took away nothing from the Pacers. Transition scores, easy pick and roll conversions, wide open jumpers...there was no resistance at all. The game started with Bojan Bogdanovic (finished with 19 on 9-12 shooting) toasting Shabazz Muhammad, and Victor Oladipo (28 on 11-16) getting whatever he wanted against Andrew Wiggins. The starting group (with Muhammad in for Butler) seemed unprepared to play, and lacked any energy at all.

Tom Thibodeau went to the bench fairly early, and the second unit, led again by Jamal Crawford and Nemanja Bjelica, brought some energy and got the Wolves back in the ball game. Karl-Anthony Towns, who finished with 28 points on the night, got warmed up in the second quarter, and helped the Wolves get to halftime tied at 61. He was punishing the rather grounded Pacers front line (without Myles Turner) in the post. It felt like they had weathered the storm of hot shooting by the Pacers. The third quarter began the way the second ended, with Towns on fire and the Wolves building a five point lead.

And then it all fell apart. Once again the Pacers began running on the Wolves, and there was no response. This time, the bench unit couldn’t stem the tide, and the Pacers outscored the Wolves 56-28 over the final 19 minutes of the game. Unspeakable.

The Pacers finished an ungodly 67 percent from the field, and made 10-22 threes. On another night they don’t shoot that well, but honestly there was not a lot of contesting happening from the Wolves defense.

Whenever I single out players after games like this, people get mad at me, but it must be said that, in a game where nobody exactly covered themselves in glory, Andrew Wiggins and Jeff Teague were particularly bad. Wiggins, who was in foul trouble much of the night, never showed up. He finished with seven points in 31 minutes, on 3-9 shooting. He exacerbated this by going an incredible 1-6 from the free throw line. And his foul trouble was the direct result of lazy defending.

Teague was similarly egregious, shooting 1-7 from the floor and offering no resistance whatsoever at the defensive end. He was badly outplayed by Darren Collison.

I don’t know what else to say. It was a putrid effort that resulted in boos at Target Center, which were well deserved. It’s not that I expect greatness from this group, but I had hoped that truly abysmal defensive games like this might be a thing of the past. Unfortunately, tonight showed me otherwise.

Let’s bullet point

  • Domatas Sabonis finished 7-7 from the field. Big Al Jefferson was 4-4. Cory Joseph was 8-11. It was that kind of night.
  • Shout out to John’s son T.J. Leaf, who showed off his offensive skills with 11 points on 5-10. He looks like he belongs out there.
  • The Wolves had 17 defensive rebounds on 28 missed Pacers shots. Not very good.
  • Thibs pulled the plug fairly early in this one; I think he was sick of watching most of these guys. Aaron Brooks and Marcus Georges-Hunt had their Wolves debuts, and Cole Aldrich saw his first action of the season.
  • John will have more reaction in the morning, and the Wolves are back at it tomorrow night in Detroit.

Enough for now. Yuck.