Game Recap: Wolves-Pacers (But really, it’s way more than that)

 

I may speak for many other Wolves fans — but by no means do my opinions represent the thoughts of the entire fanbase — when I say that I’m pretty much over the, “Kevin Love is going to eventually go elsewhere, so the Wolves better just sell him while they can still get something of value,” baseless thought process. Most of the time, because of the tireless narratives, it’s the ignorant, and oblivious, fans of the Los Angeles Lakers that are responsible for these warrantless rumors. Yesterday morning, Love was quoted in GQ saying something that allowed those who share my opinion to exhale — for the time being.

“People think it’s so far-fetched that I would stay in Minnesota,” Love said. “And I’m not shitting on the Lakers, but we have the better team, the better foundation. I’m having fun.”

Yesterday, I tweeted out a picture of the Wolves upcoming 10 games. This is that picture.

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The Wolves, with trade rumors and Love drama swirling about the twitter verse, just need to keep things together if they hope to start, and complete, an improbable – post All-Star break – run into the postseason. If they were going to whether to storm last night’s game against Indiana, at home, would be a nice place to start.

The Pacers entered the Target Center last night as an overwhelming favorite, tied in the loss column with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and fighting to keep the NBA’s best record. As we know, the Wolves are still scrambling to come up with an identity. The game tipped-off with less than 24 hours remaining until the trade deadline. Rick Adelman rolled out Ricky Rubio, Chase Budinger (part of a rumor that would package him and J.J. Barea and send them to the Memphis Grizzlies), Corey Brewer, Kevin Love, and Ronnie Turiaf to matchup with George Hill, Lance Stephenson, Paul George, David West, and Roy Hibbert.

First Half

Typically, the Pacers rugged, slow-paced grindhouse style of basketball compensates for mistakes made on the offensive end. However, Indiana turned the ball over eight times in the first 12 minutes and the Wolves took advantage by getting up-the-floor in transition en route to eight fastbreak points. Love made three, of four, three point attempts and scored 12 points in the frame and the Wolves led the Pacers by 12; 30-18.

Wolves bench players; Barea, Alexey Shved, Luc Mbah a Moute, Dante Cunningham and Gorgui Dieng, didn’t necessarily need to gain ground, but were going to need to withstand a veteran Pacers second-unit to withhold the early lead while Love and the starters rested — this would be a theme throughout the game.

Barea, Cunningham and Shved accounted for 14 of 22 second quarter points (Love tacked on eight) and Mbah a Moute played stifling defense against Lance Stephenson to help hold Indiana to only 21 second-quarter points. Both squads had 24 points in the paint, the Pacers held the advantage in second-chance points (6-2) but the fastbreak continued to be the difference; Rubio, Brewer, but mainly Love’s outlet passing, gave the Wolves a 12 to 2 advantage in fastbreak points. At halftime the scoreboard read, 52-39, in favor of the Pups. 

Second Half

Any fan in attendance yesterday could justify paying face value for a ticket, even if they only caught the third-quarter. Love and George, each team’s superstar, went shot-for-shot – basket-for-basket- as both played all 12 minutes — the two each scored 18 points. There are some who say Love is less of a superstar than he is a stat-sheet stuffer; a good player on a bad team with an opportunity to do most of the heavy lifting. It’s quarters like this one that prove otherwise.

Through three Love had 37 and the Wolves led the Pacers by 10, 82-72, but, because of the things we’ve seen happen during the final quarter — no lead is safe, ever. Yet, to the relief of fans – and bloggers – alike, there was no tragic fourth-quarter collapse. Pacers coach Frank Vogel waived the proverbial white flag with around three minutes to play. The Wolves won a game they weren’t expected, and weren’t supposed, to win — keeping that sliver of hope for a postseason appearance intact.

 

 

This is the type of crap that allows unfounded rumors to exist. If you don’t know Peter Vecsey, well, neither do I — he’s a guy I, and many others, follow on Twitter — but never had I thought of him as a media member. He would continue.

 

 

This is the first time I’ve ever seen Vecsey do anything like this, or it’s the first time I’ve ever noticed — either way, it’s garbage. Vecsey was soon debunked by Flip Saunders.

For now, the season isn’t a complete loss — nor is there reason to give up hope completely. Wolves beat the Pacers, the NBA’s best team, on national television. Love, without the aid of Kevin Martin or Nikola Pekovic, led the Wolves over the Pacers in front of a national televised audience. You’re reading that correctly, so — are the pieces in place around K-Love not good enough? I doubt it. They just haven’t gotten it done, some blame the players — some point to the coaching — but health has been the issue.

Earlier this season Turiaf went down to an elbow injury, Rick Adelman then went and played Pekovic more minutes than Pek had ever played before. Eventually, the Wolves 295 pound center would succomb to an injury of his own. It’s unfortunate timing, really. Martin will be evaluated tomorrow and is traveling with the team on the upcoming five-game road trip. We don’t know when Pekovic will be back, he missed 20 games last season and it’s likely he won’t be back for another week or so. I will notice that the previous sentence is speculation, not an accurate report.

– The 2:00PM CST trade deadline came and left without the Wolves making any moves. Rumored players on their way out the door, Barea, Budinger and – as always – Love — they’re all still here. Earlier today Wolves PR gave us more about Love and what he thinks about all of this, turns out he’s tired of it too.

 

Here’s that picture again.

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The Trail Blazers will be without LaMarcus Aldridge until early next week, so Saturday’s matchup in Portland is toss-up. The Phoenix Suns, Detroit Pistons, and Toronto Raptors are the difficult games during this stretch, while the Sacramento Kings, Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks and Milwaukee Bucks are all reeling at this point in the season.

The Wolves will need to keep winning in order to keep bad press away, last night’s win against the Pacers was a good, though unexpected, place to start.

 

 

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