Timberwolves fall to Pacers
INDIANAPOLIS — Roy Hibbert knew he was going to get the ball. It was just up to him what he was going to do with it.
It’s been a slow process for the Indiana Pacers’ center to playing up to expectations — a process that has stretch over the course of much of the season.
However, when teammate Paul George told him before the game he was getting the ball, Hibbert capitalized by scoring a season-high 27 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Pacers to a 107-91 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.
“Paul told me before the game that he was going to throw it down to me every time and I appreciate that,” Hibbert said. “I just feel like the atmosphere on the court and when we play hard, things are fun out there.
“Everybody’s scoring and getting stops and things like that. We like to see our team succeed.”
Hibbert is just a piece of the puzzle and starting to fit in place quite comfortably. Along with the season-best scoring night, had nine offensive boards and four blocks.
“Roy Hibbert was the star of the game,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “He was dominant at both ends. You can see in his body language he is playing more confident.”
George had 17 points and George Hill added 16 points with six assists to help the Pacers get their second win in three games and remain in the hunt with the New York Knicks for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Ricky Rubio had 21 points and 10 assists and Luke Ridnour scored 17 points for the Timberwolves, who have lost nine of their last 11 games.
“We played hard, we just didn’t have enough,” Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman said. “We ran out of gas in the second half, but they competed.”
The Pacers went on an 8-0 run at the end of the first half to take a 62-54 lead at halftime. They stretched the advantage to 16 late in the third quarter as George hit a fadeaway jumper and then a 3-pointer to put Indiana up 86-66 with 2:06 to go in the period.
“We knew that we needed to come out with energy and that’s kind of the case every game,” George said. “The third quarter is really where you set the tone and we knew that’s what we had to do.”
The Timberwolves didn’t lead the entire game, but still didn’t make it easy for the Pacers to pull away.
Rubio hit a 3-pointer and Ridnour made a layup before Hill’s made it 67-59 early in the third. Hill made another layup to give the Pacers a 71-61 lead before Rubio hit another 3.
Hibbert scored two baskets and David West another to put the Pacers up 77-66 with 4:17 remaining in the third.
Barea hit a 3-pointer and Dante Cunningham scored at the start of the fourth quarter before Hibbert made a basket and Orlando Johnson hit a 3-pointer to give the Pacers an 87-76 lead.
“We were fighting them all the way through the game, but in the fourth quarter I think we gave them too many easy baskets,” Rubio said. “We had a lot of turnovers, we tried to make a run, but we couldn’t get over the hump.”
Indiana took a solid lead at the start of the game before the Timberwolves climbed back.
The Pacers jumped out to a 12-2 lead to start the game. Hibbert had a jumper and George and Hill hit back-to-back 3s, and Hill made another basket before Rubio scored two free throws.
Hibbert scored with 9:17 left in the first quarter to give the Pacers a 10-point lead early.
Things are falling into place for the Pacers, who are neck-and-neck with the Knicks for the second spot in the east behind Miami.
George says their success this season is because nobody is worried about statistics.
“It helps, you have a locker room where everybody gets along and enjoys being around one another,” George said. “It goes a long ways.”
Notes: Indiana coach Tom Crean attended the game, two nights before the Hoosiers play in the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago. ... Timberwolves F Andrei Kirilenko (calf strain) and C Nikola Pekovic (Abdominal straight) didn’t travel with the team. ... Chase Budinger (left knee), Malcom Love (right knee and hip), Kevin Love (right hand), and Brandon Roy (right knee) were out against the Pacers. ... Indiana F Danny Granger was out with a sore left knee. ... The Pacers have scored 97 or more points in 13 of the last 20 games.