The Indiana Pacers are off to a 12-1 start. They’re tied with the San Antonio Spurs for best record in the league and are number one in points allowed, at 87.6 per game, so respect: they’ve taken care of business. Not to throw cold water on it — take the Pacers 106-98 win in Indiana over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, for instance — Spencer Hawes, Tony Wroten and Thaddeus Young did not play. So on one hand, it’s easy to say Philly is Philly and they’re without three of their players who actually play, but on the other hand that is the kind of trap game the Wolves could have blown these days.
The thing about those 12 wins is they come from a team which plays in the Eastern Conference. So go ahead, talk about how nice those wins over the New Orleans Pelicans (by five in New Orleans), the Chicago Bulls (by 17 at home), the Memphis Grizzlies (by 16 at home), but the Pacers’ strength of schedule has been the weakest in the league. (The Wolves have had the seventh-weakest, so this argument works both ways)
Pacers probable starting lineup:
PG George Hill
SG Lance Stephenson
SF Paul George
PF David West
C Roy Hibbert
George is shooting 36% from 3 (at plus-6 attempts a game) and 46% from the field (up from 41% last year). He’s leading the pacers in scoring, averaging 24 points a night and giving the Pacers over 6 rebounds and 3 assists to go with almost 2 steals, to boot.
Luis Scola’s addition to the Pacer bench was supposed to be an upgrade, but he’s averaged only 18 minutes a game this season (8 points, almost 4 rebounds a game).
Wolves probable starting lineup:
PG Ricky Rubio
SG Kevin Martin
SF Corey Brewer
PF Kevin Love
C Nikola Pekovic
Not a lot to like about losing to the Houston Rockets while James Harden sits. Difficult to win in Indiana. Martin-Stephenson, Pek-Hibbert, Love-West offer fun match-ups. A loss won’t be inexcusable, but the Wolves need to get back on track as their schedule begins to look a lot less East-ish coming up.