Indiana Pacers (38-22) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (25-36)
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Last game: Minnesota: L, 115-110 vs Oklahoma City, Indiana: W, 105-99 vs Milwaukee
The Wolves scrapped away against the Thunder on Saturday, but were unable to pull out a win. Michael Beasley scored 26 points and JJ Barea added 24, but Russell Westbrook scored 35, while Kevin Durant put up 40 points including 16 in the final seven minutes, as the Thunder sent Minnesota to their 10th consecutive loss.
The Pacers beat the Bucks on Saturday, dealing Milwaukee a very damaging blow to their fading playoff hopes. Indiana is third in the Eastern Conference, maintaining a 2.5 game lead over the Celtics, who have moved up to 4th place.
The Key Questions
#1. Can Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph continue to pad their end of the year stats?
Randolph and Beasley helped the Wolves stay in the game on Saturday. I may be in the minority, but I would support Beasley getting another contract from the Wolves, if the numbers are right. If Randolph gets another Minnesota contract based off these games, I’ll throw things.
#2. Are the Pacers title contenders?
Here’s something to consider: the Bulls are injury-prone, and may be worn out by the playoffs. The Heat are flawed. The Celtics are surging, but fragile. The Hawks can’t be trusted. The Magic hate each other. The Knicks have spent two years trying to find their identity and still haven’t pulled it off.
I’m not saying the Pacers are favorites. But in a weird, shortened season, why COULDN’T they be considered contenders?
#3. Are there Wolves questions that need to be asked at this point?
Not really. You know the drill. Injuries, losses, and a lost season that should have been so much more. Other than that, I’m not really bitter about anything.
The Key Matchups
The biggest matchup for the Wolves will be Nikola Pekovic against Indiana’s all-star giant Roy Hibbert. While Pekovic is much better at scoring in the restricted area (64% to Hibbert’s 57%), Hibbert’s range far outstrips Pekovic. Pek has struggled from outside the restricted area, shooting 31% from in the paint and 11% on mid-range shots, as opposed to 51% and 33% from Hibbert.
Basically, a lot of numbers to say that Hibbert can shoot from further out than Pekovic, and since Hibbert is so tall, Pek might struggle.
Danny Granger is going to be a problem for Minnesota. In their last meeting, Granger scored 36 points, including 5-8 shooting from 3 point range and 13-15 from the line. Martell Webster will be guarding him. I don’t have anything optimistic to add to this.
Bleak. Again. The Pacers have an Eastern Conference playoff lead to maintain. The Wolves have five games to mail in. Just…five more games…
Game starts at 6 pm on League Pass