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INDIANAPOLIS – Through the first three games of the season, the Indiana Pacers (2-2) have not had been faced with many interesting moments in the game’s final quarter.

That looked to be changing on Monday, with Indiana holding just a one-point lead going into the 4th in a road game versus the Timberwolves.

But any late third quarter momentum, or cushion, the Pacers had brought into the 4th quickly evaporated.

The Timberwolves outscored the Pacers 29-18 in the game’s final quarter, leading to Indiana dropping its second straight road game to start the season.

“Defensively, we didn’t do a good job of stopping them and keeping them in front, but I thought our offense frustrated us and we didn’t have the focus on the defensive end of the floor,” Nate McMillan said after his team fell to 2-2 on the season. “I thought our shot selection was poor. We didn’t have ball movement. Basically just taking quick shots, taking quick contested shots. They’re a big team. They’re going to challenge you at the basket. Their defense is tight. We’ve got to look for the kick outs, and we didn’t do that. I thought we got frustrated out there. Gave up 26 fast break points. Can’t give up lay ups like that.

“We’ve got to do a better job of executing, starts with establishing the defense, but offensively we gotta do a better job of executing with the ball.”

Beginning a stretch of 5 road games in their next 6 contests, the Pacers spent most of the night fighting back and forth with the soap opera Timberwolves.

Even though Minnesota clanked three pointer after three pointer (the Timberwolves were 7-of-33 for the game) on Monday, they won the game in transition (plus 18 in transition points) and by winning at the foul line (22-of-24 on FTs, compared to 11-of-16 for the Pacers).

Victor Oladipo (8-of-23 shooting) and Bojan Bogdanovic (8-of-12 shooting) led the Pacers with 20 points apiece. But Oladipo had just 5 points after halftime and was just 2-of-10 in the final two quarters.

With the Pacers also having to overcome early foul trouble for Myles Turner, the reliable bench wasn’t as productive on Monday.

The NBA’s top bench unit through the first three games of the season had just 21 points on Monday, more than 30 points below what they were producing so far this year. Minnesota outscored the Indiana bench 43-21.

Jimmy Butler led Minnesota with 20 points. Fellow All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns had 20 points and 14 rebounds.


Three Pacers’ Takeaways:

Beat In Transition: In today’s NBA, not many teams will win a game shooting 21.2{5cc93c20f90a32e13f8959d57682c5e5d5b1db216370168a8280434e1df7d759} from behind the arc. But Minnesota did that on Monday, thanks to 26 points in transition. The Timberwolves pushed the ball all night long in attacking the rim. Hustle points also were created by Minnesota in Monday’s third quarter, as they hit the glass for seven offensive rebounds in the third. This game was back and forth throughout the first three quarters. But the Timberwolves found an advantage in easy transition baskets, plus outscoring the Pacers at the foul line by 11 points.

Bad Tyreke: When Victor Oladipo is having an off half, like he did to finish Monday’s loss, that’s where the Pacers coveted Tyreke Evans in free agency. When Lance Stephenson, the guy Evans is replacing, struggled in Indiana, his night was often labeled as ‘bad Lance.’ Well, Monday was ‘bad Tyreke.’ The playmaking guard finished the evening with only 2 points and 1 assist in 15 minutes of action. He was 1-of-5 from the floor and committed 2 turnovers. On a night where their big man battled foul trouble and the three-point line wasn’t much of a weapon, the Pacers needed Oladipo and Evans to be there in the second half. Neither did that. Evans had scored in double figures each of the first three games. That necessary scoring punch led to Indiana floundering during a critical stretch at the start of the final quarter.

Finding A Closing Lineup: One of the early-season learning experiences for Nate McMillan is figuring out how to juggle late-game lineups. Against the Nets on Saturday, the Pacers found great success in using Bojan Bogdanovic with their four reserves. The same method didn’t work as well on Monday. A grouping of Bogdanovic, with Cory Joseph, Tyreke Evans, Doug McDermott and Domantas Sabonis allowed the Timberwolves to go on a 9-0 run to start the final quarter, in Minnesota re-taking an 8-point lead. Indiana never seriously threatened the rest of the way. The Pacers didn’t play Darren Collison in Monday’s fourth quarter. Collison was 1-of-6 for 5 points on Monday. Indiana has not received anywhere close to the same production they got from Collison last season, when he had a career season in leading the NBA in three-point percentage and assist-to-turnover ratio. With new faces and working through the right mixing and matching, McMillan is still clearly in the process of trying to find the right groups to finish games.


Injury Notes:


-T.J. Leaf (left ankle): Leaf missed his third straight game on Monday. He’s been out since the season opener. Leaf did make the trip for this 3-game road swing.


Pacers Upcoming Schedule

-@Spurs (Wednesday, 10/24)

-@Cavaliers (Saturday, 10/27)

-Trailblazers (Monday, 10/29)

-@New York (Wednesday, 10/31)