The Indiana Pacers are struggling to find a spark with top player Victor Oladipo sidelined with a knee injury and he is doubtful to return when they attempt to snap a three-game losing streak Sunday against the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves. Indiana missed Oladipo’s scoring punch in a 98-94 loss at home against Dallas on Wednesday and then struggled to make stops in a 119-107 setback at Chicago on Friday.
“The effort was there sometimes, it just wasn’t there for a whole 48 minutes,” point guard Darren Collison told reporters Friday. “We’ve got to do better, but we can’t keep saying that. At some point we’ve got to just go out there and do it.” The Timberwolves had won five in a row before they opened a two-game road trip with a 102-96 loss at Milwaukee last time out. Three players scored at least 20 points for Minnesota, which blew a 20-point lead while scoring a season-low 12 in the fourth quarter one night after going to overtime to defeat Denver. “I won’t make excuses to be honest with you,” guard Jamal Crawford told reporters when asked if fatigue was an issue. “You can say that, but we still built a big enough lead where we should have finished that game.”
TV: 5 p.m. ET, FSN North (Minnesota), FSN Indiana
ABOUT THE TIMBERWOLVES (22-14): Point guard Jeff Teague was out against Milwaukee with a knee injury and Andrew Wiggins - who finished with 21 points - was forced to play through an ankle injury. Tyus Jones made his fourth start of the season in place of Teague and had six points, five assists and five steals, but he also had to power through the contest with a dislocated finger, according to coach Tom Thibodeau. Jimmy Butler scored 20 points in 43 minutes one night after playing 42 in the OT victory, and he entered Saturday ranked second in the NBA at 37.6 minutes per game.
ABOUT THE PACERS (19-17): Head coach Nate McMillan told reporters Friday that “there’s some swelling” in Oladipo’s knee and the star guard will likely be reevaluated next week. Lance Stephenson has been starting in Oladipo’s place and is averaging 17 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in the two games. Reserve guard Cory Joseph, who is averaging 9.3 points on 53.8 percent shooting over his last seven games, had a season-high 21 to help Indiana rout Minnesota 130-107 earlier this season in Minneapolis.
1. Timberwolves C Karl-Anthony Towns had a streak of four straight double-doubles snapped in the loss to Milwaukee but also matched a season high with four 3-pointers.
2. Collison is shooting 51.2 percent from 3-point range in December after posting 40.9 percent in November and 30.4 percent in October.
3. Butler, who missed the previous matchup against the Pacers, is averaging 29.3 points over a six-game span.
PREDICTION: Timberwolves 111, Pacers 109