Heading into the All-Star break was something the Indiana Pacers looked forward to. No, not because they possessed two All-Stars in the marquee game, but for another reason.
Each player on Frank Vogel’s roster would tell you that this season — the one dedicated to a lock-down defense — has worn them out physically. It’s nothing wrong or shameful to hide, professional athletes are going to feel effects of fatigue once they compete for 52 games before the break. Top that off with how disciplined and aggressive Indiana commits to playing every night, and tired bodies will be unavoidable.
The Pacers used the beginning of February to recover from their grueling five-game Western Conference road trip, and found themselves stumbling in ugly losses to the Orlando Magic and Dallas Mavericks.
Returning from the All-Star break, a home beat down on the six-seed Atlanta Hawks seemed necessary, a game in which Paul George put on a first half for his naysayers. George finished with 26 points in Tuesday’s 108-98 win at home, and Indiana was set to encounter their first true competition of the season’s final trimester.
Traveling to Minnesota to take on the 24-28 Timberwolves on Wednesday, the Pacers would quickly revisit the few horrors of their season.
From the tip, the Pacers were clearly trying to keep the pace the way it needs to be for them to succeed. Thriving off interior scoring and halfcourt sets, Indiana typically enjoys a slower paced game than most teams in the league. In the opening minutes, it appeared we were in store for just that.