Pacers, Wolves look for quick recovery
Two playoff hopefuls coming off disappointing losses get together Thursday night in Indianapolis when the Minnesota Timberwolves take on the Indiana Pacers.
Both teams will be playing the second night of a back-to-back after each failed to take advantage of a matchup with a non-contender on Wednesday.
The Timberwolves blew a 13-point lead against the Hawks late in the third quarter, watched Derrick Rose misfire on a potential game-winner at the end of regulation and wound up losing 131-123 in overtime at Atlanta.
Meanwhile, the Pacers saw the Mavericks take the lead in the first minute of the fourth quarter and never caught up in a 110-101 defeat at Dallas.
Both teams flew into Indianapolis early Thursday morning.
History says getting the second night of a back-to-back at home should bode well for the Pacers. They've gone 6-0 in such situations this season.
Meanwhile, the Timberwolves haven't won any of their previous six road games on second nights this year.
Minnesota's loss at Atlanta came despite a second consecutive impressive effort by Karl-Anthony Towns in his return from a car accident that sidelined him for two games.
Two days after a 34-point, 21-rebound outing in a home win over Sacramento, Towns once again demonstrated he's not feeling any aftereffects of the incident with 37 points and 18 rebounds against the Hawks.
The efforts came on the heels of a conservative approach taken by the Timberwolves, even in the heat of a playoff chase, to make sure their star big man was fully healthy both mentally and physically.
"You obviously want to make sure KAT the person is taken care of," Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders explained of the club's post-accident plan. "That's definitely put ahead of KAT the basketball player."
Towns had his first double-double of the season -- 17 points and 15 rebounds -- when the Timberwolves beat the Pacers 101-91 at home in October.
He's also had 37/12 and 18/14 games in leading Minnesota to wins at Indiana in the Timberwolves' only visits the last two seasons.
Despite the loss at Atlanta, the Timberwolves will take the court Thursday having won four of six.
They'll be taking on a team that's also been hot of late, with the Pacers' loss at Dallas on Wednesday being just their third in the past 11 games.
Bojan Bogdanovic had 22 points and Wes Matthews 20 against the Mavericks. The defeat completed a three-game trip that began with a win at Washington before consecutive setbacks at Detroit and Dallas.
The Pacers played without standout reserve Domantas Sabonis, who is expected to miss the Thursday game as well with a sprained ankle.
TJ Leaf helped fill his void, contributing nine points and seven rebounds in 17 minutes at Dallas.
"It's close to playoff basketball. It's the nature of the beast," Leaf said to reporters when asked about the injury-related ups and downs of an NBA season. "We've got to be ready for it and keep our emotions in check."
If Sabonis has to miss the Pacers' entire three-game homestand that begins Thursday, it couldn't happen at a better time.
All three visitors in the next six days -- Minnesota, Orlando and Chicago -- have losing records, and they will be entering a building in which the Pacers have won 20 of their past 25 games.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 28, 2019