Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves (3-1) vs Indiana Pacers (2-3)

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The Indiana Pacers come to the Target Center fresh off learning oft-injured star Danny Granger would miss the next 3 months at least after receiving an injection in his left knee for patellar tendinosis, also known as jumper’s knee. This is disappointing for Wolves fans hoping to avenge the loss that occurred the last time these clubs met at full-strength. In that contest, Granger lit the Wolves up for 36 points and 15 trips to the line on one end and tussled and got t’d up with Kevin Love on the other. The chip on Granger’s shoulder is known league-wide and the incident wasn’t among the most contentious interactions of the evening, but was definitely it’s most memorable. Tyler Hainsbrough, Roy Hibbert, David West, and even Paul George put the hammer to the Wolves every time they dared go near the paint and established a presence that bullied too many Wolves players to mention into horrific shooting nights. Love simply didn’t have enough to fight back.

The Pacers probable starting lineup:

PG George Hill

SG Paul George

SF Sam Young

PF David West

C Roy Hibbert

Almost a year later, the absence of Granger has left the Pacers attempting to fill the void with Gerald Green, Sam Young, and even Lance Stephenson — with little success so far. The pressure is on Roy Hibbert to live up to his max-contract extension and George to be the Pacer’s primary perimeter scoring option — and he hasn’t shot over 40% from the field since opening night. Hill tied West to lead the Pacers in scoring in their loss to the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday — so you could say Hibbert and George are struggling.

The Wolves probable starting lineup:

PG Luke Ridnour

SG Brandon Roy

SF Andrei Kirilenko

PF Derrick Williams

C Nikola Pekovic

These two teams already played twice in the preseason, for what that’s worth, so they know each other that much better and, with the ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ cliche alerting everyone, along with their recent history, things could get physical.

Hansbrough has a comical intensity that leads him to hustle stats and overreaction. (Pacer’s color guy, former Celtic, Quinn Buckner once wondered aloud what the difference between Kevin Love and Tyler Hansbrough was, and insisted it was referee favoritism — too much to chew on there.) Between the karate chop fouls of Hansbrough and the low shoulders and flying elbows of David West, Derrick Williams and Dante Cunningham will welcome the opportunity to throw up some jumpers from the top of the key.

The issues Luke Ridnour has had on defense would lead one to believe he struggles with big guards, but after a season spent at shooting guard, that would seem counter-counter-intuitive, because who he gets royally torched by are quicker point guards. Here’s hoping Roy’s help on Hill comes quick for Ridnour or JJ Barea’s foot contusion was rested enough yesterday to allow him to go. Barea’s potential absence creates an opportunity for Alexey Shved’s ascension to continue.

AK47 on Paul George trumps the matchup of Roy Hibbert and Nikola Pekovic. Hibbert’s length may bother Pek, but Pek’s determination (read: immovability), movement and ability to get out and run the floor should serve him well in his matchup. Kirilenko on the other hand, faces a young flier who has yet to come into his own as a scorer. He should blanket him defensively and have an advantage inside.

Take me there.

Assuming Hibbert makes it to the game…

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