With one key player possibly returning by month’s end, the Indiana Pacers have gladly welcomed another one back in time for the first of two consecutive games against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday, this one in Minneapolis.
Guard Malcolm Brogdon played his first full game since Dec. 22 on Monday, flirting with a triple-double — 21 points, nine assists and seven rebounds — in a 101-95 defeat of the Philadelphia 76ers.
“It’s a lot of fun, especially a competitive game like that,” Brogdon told FOX Sports Indiana following the win. “Being with my guys, being on the floor, (to) be able to pull out a win like that, it’s good to be back out there.”
Brogdon missed eight of the Pacers’ previous nine games, and played fewer than eight minutes in an attempted return on New Year’s Day. He missed five straight after that, a stretch in which the Pacers went 2-3.
His return came at an important juncture. By knocking off Philadelphia, Indiana is one game up on the 76ers in the loss column as the teams currently sit fifth and sixth in the Eastern Conference standings.
“There was definitely rust, but I’ve got really patient teammates (who) continue to feed me,” Brogdon said.
With Brogdon back in the lineup, Indiana now awaits the return of guard Victor Oladipo. The two-time All-Star told Stadium last week that he is eyeing Jan. 29 for his first action since sustaining a ruptured quadriceps last January.
In the meantime, the Pacers embark on a stretch with six road games over their next seven contests, beginning Wednesday at Target Center.
Wednesday’s matchup is the first of two straight against Minnesota, which visits Indiana on Friday.
The Timberwolves are .500 at 5-5 since snapping an 11-game losing streak last month, but they may be without All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns against Indiana.
Towns missed Minnesota’s 117-104 loss to Oklahoma City on Monday, the second of two straight losses sending the Timberwolves into Wednesday’s contest.
“We have guys out who are big parts of this team,” Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders said in his postgame news conference Monday. Jake Layman has been out since Jan. 5.
Saunders alluded to the absences impacting consistency, in particular second-leading scorer Andrew Wiggins scoring just 10 points in the loss. However, Naz Reid came off the bench to score 20.
“I was happy with what Naz was able to do. I was happy with Josh (Okogie)’s dribble penetration and the way he was able to kick to shooters and guys at the rim,” Saunders said.
Potentially being down Towns presents a matchup issue for Minnesota against Indiana. At 26.5 points and 11.7 rebounds per game, Towns is the Timberwolves’ statistical leader, and the best possible counter to Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis.
Sabonis comes in also averaging a double-double at 17.8 points and 13.1 rebounds per game. He is Indiana’s second-leading scorer behind T.J. Warren, who scored 21 points in the win over Philadelphia.
Warren is also a little more than a week removed from hitting a season-high 36 points against Charlotte.
Indiana’s offensive balance poses difficulties for a Minnesota defense allowing 114.8 points per game — more than all but five teams in the NBA.
The Timberwolves allowed 139 points in a 30-point loss Saturday at Houston.
–Field Level Media
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