It deserves to be repeated that the Indiana Pacers are a very good basketball team. Minnesota entered enemy territory tonight and ultimately came up short, but it wasn’t as though they played a particularly poor game en route to that result.
First things first, the Wolves did well to force Indiana into many mid-range jumpers. Nine times out of ten, you live with the consequences of your opponent taking those shots. Well, Indiana made Minnesota pay in the mid-range tonight. Specifically, T.J. Warren killed Minnesota on those shots.
Now, it’s not as if Warren is just some schmuck who happened to get hot. He’s a good scorer who specializes in the mid-range. Minnesota could have done more to slow him down, but his final line of 28 points on 11 for 18 is pretty dang impressive regardless of the defense.
While they forced the Pacers into a lot of tough mid-range shots, Indiana still really had their way with the Wolves all night long. That’s evident in the face that the Pacers finished with 116 points on 56/33 shooting splits. That’s going to win you a ball game most nights.
It’d be easy to blame the relatively poor defensive showing on Karl-Anthony Towns given that the defense was so good while he was out, but it didn’t seem to me that he was the only issue. Minnesota’s small guards struggled to get around ball-screens, and Minnesota’s bigs — both KAT and Gorgui Dieng — seemed to always be a step behind. That’s just not going to get it done.
On the bright side of things, KAT was out there again and he looked pretty much like the same old KAT he’s always been, which was good. He was a tad rusty, but still. It’s crazy how much his presence changed the style of play tonight compared to the matchup Wednesday. The end result wasn’t any better, but in general the game was much more free-flowing and entertaining with his return.
It was a good night for Jarrett Culver, primarily in the first half where he was awesome. It’s remarkable how far he seems to have come in such a short period of time. There are obvious kinks that still need to be ironed out, but he’s getting there. The groundwork for a future star-ish player is there.
Once again, Robert Covington was pretty damn good. His final stat-line didn’t show quite how good he was tonight. I don’t really know what more there is to say. All he does is cause havoc on defense and hit triples.
Andrew Wiggins had a relatively efficient offensive game, hitting 9 of 17 for 22 points, but he didn’t seem to contribute much else. That’s certainly not a new story by any means.
It was a back-and-forth affair that was riveting all evening, but Minnesota’s late-game execution was simply unacceptable. They did a good job to hang around and ultimately tie it up late, but man, there was just a lack of execution that ultimately doomed them. Jim Pete mentioned it on the broadcast, but you can’t just let Malcolm Brogdon waltz to the rim with the game on the line.
Ultimately, the Pacers just made too many shots. The reasons as to why they shot so well are certainly fair debate. As Doc Rivers stated, “It’s a make or miss league.”