The longest road trip will be a three-game set in mid-December. However, the focus has to be on tonight in Indiana against one of the NBA's best teams.
The Indiana Pacers have lost just one game this season and are currently tied with the San Antonio Spurs for the best record in the League.
Indiana is 12-1 on the year and a perfect 7-0 at home as well as 2-0 vs. Western Conference foes. Minnesota is 8-7 on the season, 2-5 on the road and 5-2 vs. the Eastern Conference.
The Pacers will be looking to send the Wolves to a fifth-straight road loss while improving to 8-0 on their homecourt--which would be their best start at home in franchise history.
During Minnesota's four-game road losing streak they're allowing their opponents to score an average of 110.5 points while shooting 50.7% from the field and 42.7% from deep. The Pacers are allowing just 82.7 points per game on 36.8% shooting on their homecourt this season.
The Pacers are also allowing an average of just 87.6 points per game this season, which gives them the NBA's best defense! They'll certainly put their defense to the test tonight with the Wolves who have the third-best offense in the NBA averaging 106.9 points per game. The Wolves' lowest scoring output this season was 92 points vs. the Cavaliers in Cleveland (where they lost by one point). The Pacers have not allowed an opponent to hit the century mark in Indiana this season. In their lone defeat, the Pacers did allow the Bulls to score 110 points in a game in Chicago. Their highest-scoring opponent at home came this past Saturday when they hosted the Philadelphia 76ers and allowed them to score 98, but still defeated them by eight points and held them to 34.3% shooting from the field.
This is the first of two meetings this season--the second one coming in mid-February in Minnesota. In the most recent meeting between these two teams, the Pacers handed the Wolves a 107-91 loss on March 13, 2013. The Pacers went to their big men (David West & Roy Hibbert) down low and it was VERY successful; the Pacers outscored the Wolves 52-24 in the paint.
The Pacers will be without Danny Granger (calf). Granger has not played in the regular season and was initially targeting a mid-November return. Obviously as we're just a handful of days away from December...that plan is out the window. It's not really known when he'll return, however he was putting up some shots prior to their game vs. the Celtics last week. He returned to practice after a three week absence about a two weeks ago. Roughly ten days ago he was held out of practice with an upper respiratory infection. He also still has pain in his calf and reportedly hasn't returned (and won't return until the pain ceases) to practice.
The Wolves play on without Chase Budinger (knee) and Ronny Turiaf (elbow). Updates on the two of them can be found in the Injury Report.
Let's take a look at tonight's starting lineups...
Paul George continues to round out his overall game and has quickly become a Top-10 (maybe even Top-5) player in this League! As a friendly reminder, the Wolves selected Wesley Johnson over George who went six picks later to Indiana. George is a max contract player after four seasons while Johnson is currently working for the veteran's minimum in L.A. George's 24.2 points per game is tied for 5th in the NBA. However, in just three career meetings in Indiana vs. the Wolves, he's averaging 15.3 a game...I don't know that they'll be able to hold him to under that tonight...
Kevin Love has missed the Timberwolves' last three meetings with Indiana due to injuries, but in his three career games in Indiana, Love is averaging 17.7 points & 11.3 rebounds. Love's 24.9 points per game this season is 4th in the NBA, his 13.6 rebounds is tied for first and his 4.5 assists is tied for first among all power forwards and centers (Charlotte's Josh McRoberts is also averaging 4.5 a game).
The Wolves also have Kevin Martin averaging 22.8 points a game. That's good enough for 8th in the NBA and the Wolves have the only duo in the Top-16 of scoring! The next best is Dallas' 7th Monta Ellis (23.6) and 17th Dirk Nowitzki (20.9).
The Timberwolves are going to need their best offensive output of the season in Indiana tonight, Minnesota can't afford for one of their stars to have an off game. If either of the "Kevins" struggle, the Wolves have no chance in this one.
I'll be very interested to see how Peković does in this one. He's had two of his best games against a great shot-blocker (DeAndre Jordan) this season. Roy Hibbert is even better defensively and also more physical. It should be one heck of a battle in the post.
This one is an early 6pmCT tip from Indiana, enjoy the game and GO WOLVES!