PREVIEW: Falling Indiana Pacers hope to get well against sliding Wolves

Feb 15, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner (33) shoots the ball while Chicago Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr. (34) defends in the fourth quarter at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

In a matchup of slumping teams, the Indiana Pacers visit Minneapolis on Wednesday to face the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Pacers fell in overtime to the visiting Chicago Bulls on Monday, 120-112, marking Indiana’s fifth loss in its last seven games.

The Timberwolves are coming off a 112-104 home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, Minnesota’s seventh defeat in nine games.

The Pacers snapped a four-game skid with consecutive road wins over the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks late last week, but a 66-54 rebounding disparity against Chicago ended the modest streak.

“We just have a tendency to kind of watch shots go up instead of blocking out our man,” Indiana guard T.J. McConnell said postgame. “That’s not going to get it done. We (have) to be better, plain and simple. We will. It’s going to continue to bite us in the butt and not allow us to get over the hump.”

Read More: RECAP: Zach LaVine leads Chicago Bulls past Indiana Pacers in OT

The Pacers’ rebounding gap vs. Chicago came despite Malcolm Brogdon grabbing 15 and Domantas Sabonis pulling down 10. And though Sabonis is one of the leading rebounders in the NBA at 11.4 per game, the Pacers head into Wednesday’s matchup with Minnesota ranked near the bottom of the league at 10.5 offensive rebounds allowed per game.

Minnesota is pulling down nearly 11 offensive rebounds per game, and it recently welcomed back the team’s statistical leader in that category every year since 2015-16, Karl-Anthony Towns.

Towns has eight offensive boards in his first four games back and 35 total rebounds over that stretch. Towns missed the previous 13 games and 20 of 22, the result of a dislocated wrist.

Minnesota is just 1-3 since his return, however.

Rookie wing Anthony Edwards scored a team-high 28 points against the Lakers, shooting 5-for-10 from 3-point range, but it wasn’t enough.

“We (weren’t) aggressive. We (were) sacred, we (were) intimidated,” Edwards said. “I just took it personal and took it upon myself to show that I don’t care who I’m going against, I’m still going to play the same way as I’d play if I’m going against somebody that’s not the Lakers.”

The Timberwolves, who own the NBA’s worst record, did manage an impressive 116-112 victory over Toronto on Sunday when Towns contributed 20 points and 11 rebounds.

Minnesota’s roster is not yet quite at full strength, however. Jarrett Culver missed the Tuesday game due to a left ankle spring, and D’Angelo Russell is scheduled to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.

Russell will be out for four to six weeks.

Read More: Minnesota Timberwolves star D’Angelo Russell out 4-6 weeks, to undergo knee surgery

Indiana has struggled with its own persistent absences from the lineup. T.J. Warren has not played since Dec. 29 due to foot surgery. Caris LeVert — acquired from the Brooklyn Nets in a trade that sent former All-Star Victor Oladipo to the Houston Rockets — required surgery to treat renal cell carcinoma of the kidney shortly after joining the team.

Pacers coach Nate Bjorkgren told play-by-play announcer Mark Boyle on Saturday that LeVert is “looking good.”

Until Warren or LeVert become available, Indiana is seeking a consistent scorer to help replace the 20 points per game Oladipo was averaging. Brogdon and Sabonis average 21.2 and 21 points per game, respectively, but there is a considerable drop to third-leading-scorer Myles Turner’s 13.4 points per game average — not counting Warren’s 15.5 average in just four games.

Doug McDermott, who averages 13.3 points per game, primarily off the bench, missed the Monday loss because of a right knee injury.

–Field Level Media