January 1, 2018 / 12:57 AM / 9 months ago

Timberwolves pick on Oladipo-less Pacers

Timberwolves pick on Oladipo-less Pacers

INDIANAPOLIS — The similarity to a prior game was recognized by the Minnesota Timberwolves, who remember well how they didn’t have leading scorer Jimmy Butler and were embarrassed the last time they faced the Indiana Pacers.

Not only did the Pacers take advantage of that injury absence in a 23-point road win on Oct. 24 in Minnesota, but they also set a franchise record for field-goal percentage (.667).

The situation was reversed on Sunday, when the Pacers were without injured leading scorer Victor Oladipo, and the Butler-led Timberwolves scored the first 17 points in a 107-90 road victory at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

“It was like deja vu,” said Timberwolves forward Taj Gibson, who had 17 points. “We didn’t have Jimmy when they beat us, and then they lose Vic when they need him in this tough stretch.

“In the NBA, nobody is going to feel sorry for you. You have to come in and continue to play hard.”

Butler, who averages 21.2 points, scored a game-high 26 points while center Karl-Anthony Towns added 18 points, a game-best 14 rebounds and six blocks.

“We watched film the last two days of their win earlier in the year, and it definitely wakes you up,” Butler said. “It was good to get back at them.”

The Pacers missed their first 12 shots while the Timberwolves hit eight of their first 12.

“I think that was more turnovers than shots,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said of the one-sided start, during which his team committed five turnovers.

Without Oladipo, who averages 24.9 points, the Pacers shot just 38.8 percent (33 of 85) from the floor, their lowest percentage in a home game this season.

“We made shots, they missed some they normally make, (it was) probably a combination of those two things,” Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “They made a run at us. I think they got it down to five, but we built (the lead) back up.”

The Timberwolves (23-14) have won six of seven and 10 of 12.

The visitors pulled away for good after the Pacers closed the deficit to 30-25 in the second quarter. Minnesota led by 11 at halftime and put the game away with a 38-20 third quarter to take an 87-58 lead.

“We just moved the ball well and our defense was phenomenal,” Gibson said. “Everybody was just really in sync.”

The Pacers (19-18) matched their longest losing streak of the season at four games, the last three without Oladipo, who has a sore right knee.

Oladipo’s replacement, Lance Stephenson, made just 2 of 9 shots and finished with five points.

“One game can get us back on track,” Indiana point guard Darren Collison said. “I’m a big believer, you win one game, start feeling good about yourself and get back on a streak.”

Third-year reserve guard Joe Young led the Pacers with a career-high 20 points. Bojan Bogdanovic scored 13 points for Indiana, and Cory Joseph added 10.

“We just got to get a better start, and I feel like we’re going to get better at it,” Young said. “We’re going to come together as a team. We’re going through a little adversity, but we’re going to overcome it.”

NOTES: Indianapolis native Jeff Teague, who signed with the Timberwolves after playing for the Pacers last season, was disappointed about not being able to play against his former team in his hometown, so much so that he dressed for warm-ups. The point guard, who averages 13.4 points per game, missed his second straight game with a sprained left MCL and is out indefinitely. ... Minnesota has won five of six on the road. ... In his first start for SG Victor Oladipo on Wednesday, Lance Stephenson had his first double-double of the season, including a career-high 15 rebounds. He then matched his season high with 18 points in his second start, a Friday loss at Chicago. He led the Pacers in rebounding the previous three games. ... The Pacers lead the NBA in 3-point field-goal percentage (.385) and are 15-5 when making at least 10 3-pointers in a game, but have lost the last two games at home despite making 10 3-pointers.

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