Minnesota Timberwolves (8-7) at Indiana Pacers (12-1)
After suffering their first loss of the season to the Chicago Bulls, the Indiana Pacers have rattled off three more wins to improve to 12-1. That mark is tied with San Antonio for the best record in the NBA.
As Indiana looks to add to their league-best 12 wins, the Pacers will play host to the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis at 7:00 p.m.
Keys to the game for the Indiana Pacers include limiting All-Star Kevin Love in the rebounding category, slowing point guard Ricky Rubio in transition, and defending the three-point shot.
Love is averaging a double-double with points (24.9) and rebounds (13.6), a standard for the big man since he was drafted. It will be vital for Roy Hibbert, David West, Paul George, Lance Stephenson, Ian Mahinmi and Luis Scola to block out and hit the boards all night. No question is Love the focal point of Frank Vogel’s game plan against the ‘Wolves.
Meanwhile, Rubio is posting nearly nine assists per game with his ability to attack the basket and find the open man. The Spaniard isn’t known as a deadly scorer (8.1 PPG), so the guards for Indiana need not worry about Rubio taking most of the shots. He leaves that up to his perimeter guys in Love, Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer.
As for defensive three-point field goals, a statistical category the Pacers rank very good in, Martin and Brewer are the guys to watch there. Love, Rubio and center Nikola Pekovic are also capable of stepping out beyond the arc and knocking it down. Indiana has answers for that threat defensively, however, in George Hill, C.J. Watson, Orlando Johnson and Paul George. Minnesota will get its points, but it won’t be easy against the Pacers’ defense.
Minnesota will need to focus on stopping Paul George and Lance Stephenson. Stephenson notched his second triple-double already this season over the weekend, showing his versatility on both ends of the court.
George speaks for himself. The all-star and 2012-13 NBA Most Improved Player is back at it. George scored 35 and 27 in wins over New York and Boston last week. The ‘Wolves don’t have an immediate answer for Indiana’s 6-9 wing player, but I expect George to see some double teams tonight as well as various defenders.
Indiana Pacers hold a slight edge tonight because of their defense and depth. Blue and gold handle business 97-88.