Pacers use big third quarter to squash Timberwolves
MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Timberwolves were one of the NBA’s more talked-about teams in the offseason. The Indiana Pacers, meanwhile, didn’t generate quite as many headlines.
Of course, preseason expectations mean very little once the games actually begin, as Minnesota found out the hard way Tuesday.
The Pacers came into the newly renovated Target Center and handed the Timberwolves a lopsided 130-107 loss. In doing so, Indiana set a franchise record for shooting percentage in a game, connecting on 66.7 percent from the floor in the rout.
“It’s going to be a long year, ups and downs, but the biggest thing is we’ve just all got to stay together collectively,” said Pacers guard Victor Oladipo, who scored a team-high 28 points. “That’s what we’re trying to do, and that’s what we’re doing a job of. Now we’ve just got to build on it.”
Cory Joseph scored 21 points — thanks to 5-of-6 shooting from 3-point range — and Bojan Bogdanovic added 19 points as five different Pacers scored in double figures. Hot shooting helped the Pacers improve to 2-2 on the year after they lost their previous two games.
Indiana used a big second half to pull away from the Timberwolves (2-2). After a tie at halftime, the Pacers outscored Minnesota 69-46 and shot an impressive 76.9 percent from the floor in the second half.
“If you move the ball as they did tonight, guys are going to have wide-open looks,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “No one was really holding the ball — they were getting it out to the open guy. ... We took a lot of uncontested shots tonight because of the good ball movement.”
Karl-Anthony Towns led the way for Minnesota with 28 points on 12-of-17 shooting, and Jamal Crawford and Nemanja Bjelica both chipped in 18 points.
Minnesota overcame a sluggish first quarter in which it was outscored 33-20 to tie the game at halftime. Towns scored 12 of his 17 first-half points in the second quarter to lead the charge, and Crawford gave Minnesota a lift off the bench.
The second half, however, was all Indiana.
The Pacers used a 14-1 run late in the third quarter to open an 86-80 advantage. Bogdanovic scored six points during that stretch as the Pacers silenced an early third-quarter spurt by the Timberwolves. Back-to-back baskets by Bogdanovic capped the burst.
Minnesota’s defense struggled without guard Jimmy Butler, who missed the game with an upper-respiratory infection. Butler’s absence wasn’t announced until 20 minutes before the opening tip.
The Timberwolves now travel to Detroit on Wednesday for the second game of a back-to-back. Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau said after the Tuesday game that he wasn’t sure about Butler’s status for Wednesday.
Without Butler on the floor, Indiana capitalized on a lackadaisical Minnesota defense to end the third quarter.
Darren Collison hit a 3-pointer just before time expired to push the Pacers’ lead to 98-84 entering the fourth. Indiana shot 64.6 percent from the floor through the first three quarters and was 14 of 19 (73.7 percent) in the fourth quarter.
“As I mentioned to our players, we have to have a toughness to win,” Thibodeau said. “When you’re short-handed, you can’t come out and just think you’re going to go out there and win without putting the work into it.”
Indiana’s lead grew to as many as 25 points in the fourth quarter. Collison scored back-to-back baskets for the Pacers for four of his 15 points, which accompanied his 16 assists.
The Timberwolves entered the game riding high from a buzzer-beating victory on Sunday. Andrew Wiggins was the hero in that game against Oklahoma City, but foul trouble and poor shooting limited his effectiveness Tuesday. Wiggins had just seven points and was 1 of 6 from the foul line while finishing the game as a team-worst minus-21 on the stat sheet.
NOTES: Timberwolves F Shabazz Muhammad started in place of G Jimmy Butler, who averaged 13.3 points in his first three games with Minnesota this season. ... Pacers C Myles Turner missed his third consecutive game with a concussion and sore neck. Turner sustained the injury in Indiana’s season opener. Coach Nate McMillan said Turner still “has a ways to go” before he is cleared to return to action. ... Indiana plays at Oklahoma City on Wednesday.