The Minnesota Timberwolves (pre)season is officially underway as it began in Indiana at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indiana against the injury-riddled Pacers.
The Pacers were without Paul George (leg), Chris Copeland (knee), Ian Mahinmi (shoulder) and C.J. Watson (foot). This was also their first game playing without the recently departed Lance Stephenson who bolted in free agency to join the Charlotte Hornets this summer.
The Pacers signed C.J. Miles, Rodney Stuckey and 28-year-old rookie Damjan Rudez to help fill those big shoes and, at least for tonight, they did an admirable job against this young Timberwolves squad.
The Wolves were playing without the injured Kevin Martin (abductor strain) and Anthony Bennet (hip). The decision was made to rest veterans Mo Williams and Nikola Pekovic as well.
As a result, the Timberwolves started Ricky Rubio, Corey Brewer, Andrew Wiggins, Thaddeus Young and Gorgui Dieng. That was countered by Indiana with George Hill, Rodney Stuckey, C.J. Miles, David West and Roy Hibbert.
Wolves fans got their first real look at their young prospects in this preseason affair. Andrew Wiggins made his debut as a Wolf, starting at small forward, he finished the night playing a game-high 32 minutes, finishing with 18pts, 4reb, 3ast, 1stl, 3blks on 4-11 FG, 2-2 3PT and 8-10 FT. His 18pts & 3blks were also game-highs.
The Wolves played a good first half of basketball. Thaddeus Young was especially impressive early. His versatility on both ends of the floor was noticeable as he scored Minnesota's first three field goals to begin the game. Much of Young's time on the floor was spent guarding former All-Star David West. Initially, I thought West would have a big strength advantage on Young, however Thad held his own in the paint and thanks to his quickness, it was actually a matchup that favored the Timberwolves.
Young finished the night with 12pts on 5-10 shooting along with 4reb, 2ast and 1stl in 18 minutes.
This Indiana Pacers team will play much different than they have in years past. There was much more ball movement for the usually isolation-heavy Pacers offense. That of course, is directly correlated to the fact they are without two of their biggest playmakers of the past couple seasons in Paul George (who suffered that horrific broken leg this summer) and Lance Stephenson (now with the Hornets). With a clear advantage in the post against many teams, we should see some big games (and possibly career-years) from Roy Hibbert and David West. Rodney Stuckey's role will be much different than the past few years in Detroit where he was utilized as mainly a sixth man. George Hill had himself a very good game, scoring 17pts, 11 of which came in the third quarter where the Pacers outscored the Wolves 36-20 and ultimately took control of the game.
The Wolves found themselves in a double-digit hole midway through the second quarter, but battled back and ended the first half on a 10-3 run to make it a 4-point ball game at halftime.
The Pacers offense exploded in the third quarter. After six minutes of third quarter action, the Pacers had scored 20 of their 36 third quarter points and continued to force the Timberwolves into a lot of poor shots.
The Wolves shot just 37.2% on the night from the field. By the end of the third quarter, with the Pacers leading by 20; 62-82. The game was essentially over as it was likely Flip would play some of the 'end-of-the-bench' guys. That held true as the Pacers offense continued to roll and the Wolves looked like a stagnant mess on their own end--expected for a team trying to find its offensive identity sans-Love and (at least for tonight) sans-Pekovic.
Some miscellaneous observations from tonight's game...
That's all I've got for tonight. The Wolves face off against the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night in Minneapolis. Tipoff is set for 7pmCST. Following Friday's game, the Wolves have a full week off before their next preseason bout, scheduled for the following Friday against Jabari Parker and the Milwaukee Bucks in Cedar Rapids. Thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!