INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Pacers’ five-game hitting streak ended Wednesday when the Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Blue and Gold in Indianapolis.
Again, the Pacers’ biggest weakness was starting the game. Indiana has the worst net rating in the NBA during the first quarter (-19.8), they’ve had slow starts in seemingly every game. This happened again on Wednesday as the Pacers trailed 27-10 less than ten minutes into the game.
The Blue and Gold outscored Minnesota in the remaining 38 minutes of action. But it didn’t matter since the team had started so badly. They have struggled with starting games all season and Wednesday night was a particularly poor opening from the team.
“They went up in Ty [Haliburton] a little,” guard Buddy Hield said of the Timberwolves’ strategy early on. “We got hit in the mouth first and didn’t hit back.”
It looked like the Pacers would get over their slow start, as they have so many times this season, and get back in control. For 21 seconds into the second quarter, they took a 46-45 lead. But the Timberwolves scored on their next possession and never gave up the lead again. They were the top team most of the night and consistently had answers for Indiana racing.
Most of the fifth-place Pacers had a bad night. Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, Aaron Nesmith and Jalen Smith were a combined 11/46 in the matchup. Haliburton was passing well and Hield made some effective plays, but overall that foursome really struggled.
The bench was missing Isaiah Jackson and Andrew Nembhard, and even that group faltered, Oshae Brissett and Goga Bitadze both having more shots than points. Minnesota has size adept at every frontcourt position and disrupted what Indiana wanted to do.
“They came in wanting to physically have a lot of drive and presence to start the game. They made it difficult for us defensively,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “Obviously we did a lot of things not very well,” he added, citing rebounding and shooting problems.
Two players shone for the Pacers despite the team’s disconnected night: Bennedict Mathurin and Myles Turner. Mathruin was the only Pacer who could consistently get into the paint and score, and he finished with 21 points on just 11 shot attempts. He got on the line several times and kept the Pacers in the game while the other guards fought.
Turner, meanwhile, dominated. He had his sixth-ever 30+ point exit, losing 31 points and grabbing seven rebounds. He added two assists, four steals and a block. The veteran center rained in seven three-point shots and forced Minnesota to adjust defensively. The Pacers only had a chance in this game because of Turner’s brilliance.
“I knew they were bigger. I haven’t picked and jumped much this year…the bigs have trouble protecting me. I know I take advantage of my seats. Coach puts me in a good position to do that.” Turner said of the impressive night of him.
Plugged into Turner’s incredible performance was the highlight of the year for the Pacers. He crushed Jaden McDaniels in the lane and gave his team a lot of momentum, which gave them a chance to run in the third quarter.