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Game Preview #21: Pacers at Wolves

Minnesota returns home after an impressive performance on the road in Philadelphia on Saturday night.

Indiana Pacers v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

Game Info

Who: Indiana Pacers (9-13) at Minnesota Timberwolves (10-10)
When: 7:00pm CST
TV: Bally Sports North
Radio: 830 WCCO AM Radio
Line: Wolves -2.5

What To Watch For

After a few disappointing weeks to kick off the month of November, the Minnesota Timberwolves have rebounded quite nicely to end the month, winning seven of their last ten games (including extremely impressive victories over the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers). With only five teams in the Western Conference currently above .500, the Wolves have parlayed their recent string of success into the 7th best record in their conference, which just so happens to also be one game behind the four-seed Dallas Mavericks.

As was the case when things were going poorly for the team, the same needs to be said when things appear to be improving — the NBA season is a marathon, and while the Wolves have found another gear as of late, there are still many miles (and months) ahead on the NBA calendar. That’s not to take anything away from Minnesota’s recent success, which as mentioned above includes very impressive, gutty wins against both the Heat and 76ers — two strong Eastern Conference contenders who play a physical style of basketball while also receiving a very generous whistle from officials.

Tonight’s matchup against another Eastern Conference foe — the Indiana Pacers — will mark the end of the month for Minnesota before flipping the calendar over to December, which figures to be the most difficult month of basketball the team will play all season:

As I tweeted out earlier today, all 14 of the Wolves’ opponents next month are currently considered “playoff teams.” While it’s just one month of the season, the Wolves will need to do their best to simply tread water to close out 2021, before the schedule really opens up to start 2022.

All of this is to simply say — while tonight is just another game, hosting the 9-13 Indiana Pacers at home is a fairly important contest, and one that the Wolves should likely win, as long as they can stay health (more on that in a second).

As for tonight’s opponent — I haven’t been able to watch much of the Pacers so far this year, but the biggest change for the team since the Wolves last played them is their head coach. After just one disappointing season, former Pacers’ head coach Nate Bjorkgren was shown the door this summer and quickly replaced by former Mavericks’ head coach Rick Carlisle. The early returns on this switch have been mixed, but Carlisle has been one of the most successful coaches in the NBA for quite some time, so it may just take a little more seasoning for him to get the Pacers back into the thick of it in the Eastern Conference.

Injury Reports

At the time of writing this (approximately 12:00pm PST), the Wolves were staring down the barrel of a VERY thin depth chart tonight. While Patrick Beverley remains OUT with his left adductor strain, Minnesota has also recently added both Jaden McDaniels and Jarred Vanderbilt to the injury report due to “flu-like symptoms.” It sounds like both of these illnesses are non-COVID related, which is the good news, but if the Wolves are without both players tonight against Indiana, it could be an uphill battle for one of the already smaller rosters in the NBA.

As for the Pacers — the only real injury they are dealing with tonight involves T.J. Warren, who is currently dealing with a foot injury. It’s believed that Warren could make his regular season debut sometime in late December/early January, but he will definitely miss tonight’s matchup against the Wolves.

Prediction time — I’ve been “solar panel in the desert” hot with my picks lately, connecting on my last thread picks in my previews (Lakers, Suns, and Pelicans). As mentioned at the top, Minnesota is currently laying 2.5 points tonight at home against the Pacers, and while they could be without two extremely important front court players, I still like their chances against a fairly disappointing Pacers team. Indiana is playing on the second night of a back-to-back, and while they possess a ton of skilled, professional players (as well as a strong head coach), I expect a big night at Anthony Edwards in front of yet another strong crowd at Target Center. Wolves 110, Pacers 102.