December 31, 2017, 4:49 pm
Minnesota is coming off a loss in Milwaukee that snapped their five-game win streak and they face off with Indiana who beat them by 23 points back in October.
That was only the fourth game into the season so a lot has changed since then. Both teams have played well since then, the Wolves sitting at 22-14 and the Pacers at 19-17. Victor Oladipo has been a monster for the Pacers averaging 24.9 points, 3.9 assists, 5.3 rebounds, 1.8 steals, 1.0 blocks and 2.7 3-pointers on 48.5 percent shooting with 18.4 shots per game.
They have a net rating of 5.0 with him on the floor and a net rating of minus-5.8 with him off the floor on the season. It’s no wonder that the Pacers are 0-3 in games he’s missed, including the last two games.
The Pacers are a well-balanced team and Oladipo’s offensive firepower and defense puts them over the top. Without him they lose that glue and struggle to string together consistent offense. Their main concern with him out though is the loss their best perimeter and wing defender.
Their defensive rating is 104.6 with Oladipo on the floor and 111.0 with him off the floor.
Oladipo’s status for this game remains in question. If he misses the game it would mark second time the Wolves faced the Pacers without a key player, though last time Myles Turner’s absence didn’t disrupt the Pacers.
Turner returned in early November and has been right on track with his numbers from last season, which may disappoint some. He was expected to take a huge jump this season into the leagues’ top big men, and while the counting stats may not be all there, he’s still been valuable, particularly defensively.
Turner is averaging 2.3 blocks, 0.5 steals and 0.9 3-pointers per game which makes for excellent contributions for a modern NBA center. He’s the second-leading scorer on the team at 14.5 points per game as well so he may see a few more shots if Oladipo must sit.
The Pacers are very balanced though and any given night a different player may step up offensively. Lance Stephenson slid into the starting unit with Oladipo out and has taken double-digit shots the last two games with Oladipo out after taken less than eight shots per game prior.
Darren Collison scored 30 points and took more shots than his average as well. So if Oladipo is forced to sit look for Lance or DC to take on the scoring load.
Defense will still be a major issue for the Pacers. Towns will have a tough time battling with Turner inside, but elsewhere the Wolves have mismatches all over. It could be another high scoring game (the last game was 130-107 in favor of the Pacers), but the Wolves should be able to take it with Oladipo likely to sit.
– Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Myles Turner
– Gorgui Dieng vs. Domantas Sabonis
The Wolves should be able to handle the perimeter game well in this one, despite losing Jeff Teague. The game will likely come down to the battle inside.
First the matchup between third-year bigs Turner and Towns will be intriguing. Turner is long and athletic but not as big as some other bigs Towns has struggled with. It could be time for Towns to turn the tables and get physical with an opponent for a change and not let Turner get easy position.
Turner is a talented shooter though, so simply forcing Turner out of the paint won’t cut it. He can hit shots from all over the floor and is comfortable all the way out to the 3-point line. Towns will have to be on constant defensive position and keep his hands ready.
It will be a fun battle between the two players.
Off the bench both teams can run out talented big men that could start for a number of teams. Dieng and Sabonis are two classic big men adjusting to modern styles. Both prefer to play physical inside but can step out and hit a jump shot. Both guys facilitate the offense well as big men, willing to make extra passes.
Sabonis played very well in the first matchup between these teams battling Towns in the starting lineup while filling in for Turner. He finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds and five assists on 7-of-7 shooting. Despite coming off the bench he’s still averaging 11.8 points per game.
Sabonis leans more towards scoring while Dieng leans more towards defense. It will make for an interesting dynamic once they enter the game.
Tyus Jones – PG
Jimmy Butler – SG
Andrew Wiggins – SF
Taj Gibson – PF
Karl-Anthony Towns – C
Darren Collison – PG
Lance Stephenson – SG
Bojan Bogdanovic – SF
Thaddeus Young – PF
Myles Turner – C
Jeff Teague (knee) – OUT
Andrew Wiggins (ankle) – ACTIVE
Victor Oladipo (knee) – OUT
Glenn Robinson III (ankle) – OUT
Where to Watch:
5:00 ET/4:00 CT on Fox Sports North