INDIANAPOLIS – Sixteen games and nearly a month into a season that began with so much promise, the Timberwolves now find themselves after Monday’s 98-84 loss at Indiana right back where they started.
Back to even.
This time, though, they’re 8-8 and the reality of a demanding November schedule has left them simply hoping to find enough practice time and resolve to survive a 12-day stretch in which they play six opponents who are winning at a combined 76-percent clip.
Once 5-2, the Wolves now are back to even. They’re also 2-6 on the road and have lost five consecutive games away from Target Center after the Pacers kept their aim solidly set at an NBA championship by starting a season 13-1 for the first time in their history.
“It’s like another season for us now,” Wolves star Kevin Love said. “We’re 8-8 now, at .500. We knew it’d be a tough stretch for us, but we’re up for the challenge.”
The Wolves trailed by 12 points in the first quarter, but led by one late in the third quarter before the Pacers and blossoming superstar Paul George finished the third quarter and began the fourth with a 22-4 run that won the game.
George scored 11 of his team’s 22 points during an eight-plus minute stretch when the Wolves didn’t score a basket. In that time, the Pacers turned a 66-65 deficit with 3:09 left in the third into an 87-70 lead with 6:33 remaining.
Perhaps it was fitting that on the same evening the Wolves agreed to trade away 2011 No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams, a guy they didn’t draft the year before delivered a 26-point, eight-rebound, four-assist, four-steal night.
The Pacers drafted George 10th overall in 2010. That was six slots after the Wolves took Wes Johnson, who is gone now, too.
Point guard George Hill scored 26 points as well for a Pacers team that was instructed to push the ball at every turn against the Wolves’ suspect transition defense.
“They’re a pretty good team, you know?” Wolves guard Kevin Martin said. “They’ve got a big goal in mind, and they’re doing what they need to do to attain that goal come June.”
Once concerned almost solely about his team’s defense, Wolves coach Rick Adelman now has turned his attention to an offense that has lost its timing after starting the season 7-4.
“We’ve got to play better,” Adelman said. “We haven’t practiced. Our schedule has been so brutal and now you’re seeing it offensively. We’re shortcutting things. We’ve got to get back paying attention to detail and we’re not doing that consistently right now. We can’t change the schedule. You have to go out and play the teams that are there. We have to get some wins. You can’t hang your head. You’ve got to stay together, go out and get through it.”