Monday, March 1

Falling Pacers hope to improve against sliding wolves

In a showdown of teams in decline, the Indiana Pacers visit Minneapolis on Wednesday to face the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Pacers fell in overtime to the visiting Chicago Bulls on Monday, 120-112, marking Indiana’s fifth loss in its last seven games.

The Timberwolves are coming off a 112-104 loss at home to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, Minnesota’s seventh loss in nine games.

The Pacers snapped a four-game streak with back-to-back road wins over the Detroit Pistons and the Atlanta Hawks late last week, but a 66-54 rebounding disparity against Chicago ended the modest streak.

“We have a tendency to see the shots go up instead of blocking our man,” Indiana guard TJ McConnell said after the game. “That is not going to make it. We have to be better, plain and simple. We will. It will continue to bite us on the butt and it will not let us get over the hump.”

The Pacers’ rebounding gap against Chicago came despite Malcolm Brogdon hitting 15 and Domantas Sabonis dropping 10. And while Sabonis is one of the NBA’s leading rebounders at 11.4 per game, the Pacers are heading for the Wednesday’s showdown with Minnesota near the end. in the league with 10.5 offensive rebounds allowed per game.

Minnesota is hitting nearly 11 offensive rebounds per game, and recently welcomed the team’s statistical leader in that category every year since 2015-16, Karl-Anthony Towns.

Towns has eight offensive boards in his first four games and 35 total rebounds in that stretch. Towns missed the previous 13 games and 20 of 22, as a result of a dislocated wrist.

Minnesota is just 1-3 since his return, however.

Rookie winger Anthony Edwards scored a team-high 28 points against the Lakers, shooting 5 of 10 from 3-point range, but it wasn’t enough.

“We were not aggressive. We were holy, we were intimidated,” Edwards said. “I took it personally and took it upon myself to show that I don’t care who I face, I will continue to play the same way I would play if I faced someone other than the Lakers.”

The Timberwolves, who have the worst record in the NBA, posted an impressive 116-112 victory over Toronto on Sunday when Towns contributed 20 points and 11 rebounds.

However, Minnesota’s roster is not yet in tip-top shape. Jarrett Culver missed Tuesday’s game with a jump left ankle, and D’Angelo Russell is scheduled to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.

Russell will be out for four to six weeks.

Indiana has struggled with its own persistent absences from the lineup. TJ Warren has not played since December 29 due to foot surgery. Caris LeVert, acquired from the Brooklyn Nets in a trade that sent former All-Star Victor Oladipo to the Houston Rockets, required surgery to treat renal cell carcinoma of the kidney shortly after joining the team.

Pacers coach Nate Bjorkgren told announcer Mark Boyle on play-by-play Saturday that LeVert “looks good.”

Until Warren or LeVert are available, Indiana is looking for a consistent scorer to help replace the 20 points per game that Oladipo was averaging. Brogdon and Sabonis are averaging 21.2 and 21 points per game, respectively, but there’s a sizable drop from third-leading scorer Myles Turner’s 13.4-point-per-game average, not counting Warren’s 15.5 average in just four games.

Doug McDermott, who is averaging 13.3 points per game, mostly off the bench, missed Monday’s loss with a right knee injury.

–Field level media

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