With one win and two losses on the season, the Timberwolves look to even their record back up tonight against the Pacers. Indiana is a team that figures to be in the mix to host a playoff series in the Eastern Conference, so they are certainly a solid squad. Indiana has transformed into a team that plays at a level that is more than the sum of its parts, which is something that Minnesota is still striving to do.
By now, everyone has heard the story with Victor Oladipo. Oladipo was the centerpiece of Indiana’s return package for former franchise cornerstone Paul George. Analysts initially thought that Indiana got fleeced during the trade, but this proved incorrect when Oladipo turned into a star last season. He will be an challenging match up for Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins on the perimeter, as a player who is always going 100% and attacking on both offense and defense.
As a whole, Indiana is a deep team with a wide variety of role players who do their jobs exceptionally. Outside of Oladipo and Myles Turner, Indiana gets solid production from players such as Thaddeus Young, Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison and Cory Joseph. That group offers a little bit of everything, from defense to slashing and cutting to strong outside shooting. Indiana’s big offseason move was the acquisition of veteran play maker Tyreke Evans in free agency. The former rookie of the year has enjoyed a recent career revitalization and looks like one of the best under-the-radar signings of the summer.
For Minnesota, it will be important that they do a better job on the defensive end tonight after giving up 140 points to the Mavs in their last outing. While the team still struggles to contain perimeter players from attacking the paint, their biggest issue thus far has been defensive rebounding. Minnesota is currently giving up nearly 16 offensive rebounds per game, which is leading to an absurd amount of second choice points for the opposition.
Jimmy Butler returns to action tonight, which is obviously a plus for Minnesota. It would be nice to see if Josh Okogie will be able to get any playing time to build off his solid debut on Saturday, but that doesn’t seem likely. Derrick Rose will be looking to build upon his solid start to the season so far, even if he is still playing significantly more than we’d like to see him play.
One important thing to watch for tonight will be how well Karl-Anthony Towns acclimates himself in the offense with Butler back in the lineup. Towns was able to finally get himself going on the offensive end in the 4th quarter against Dallas, and it would be a welcome sign for the Wolves to see the big man build off of that.
For Minnesota to win, they’ll need to do a few things really well. First, they will need to emphasize their transition defense. Victor Oladipo is a menace in transition, and it needs to be a priority to pick him up early. Along with that, ball security is more important than ever when Oladipo is playing. He loves to get into the passing lanes and jump lazy passes to get himself in transition. Lastly, as stated before, Minnesota needs to rebound. A lot of their rebounding woes have stemmed from slow/poor defensive rotations, and cleaning that area up tonight would go a long ways towards earning their second win of the young season.
Projected Starting Line-ups
Injuries: Indiana - Domanatas Sabonis - out (knee), TJ Leaf - questionable (ankle)
Prediction: Wolves 113 Pacers 109