Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 2/2/12
MINNEAPOLIS Frank Vogel spoke like someone who already knew what was going to happen."It's going to be a smash-mouth basketball game for sure," said Vogel, the Pacers' coach, before Wednesday's game. "It's going to be a battle on the glass."He smiled. He shrugged a little. It was as if he was imagining just what his beast of a team could do to the Timberwolves.Whatever Vogel imagined, even whatever he might have wished, came true on Wednesday night, when the Pacers manhandled the Timberwolves into a 109-99 loss. Not only did Indiana finish the night with a season-high score, it also managed to completely stagnate the Timberwolves' offense with what amounted to a physical beat-down. "In the first half, we were really bad offensively," Timberwolves' coach Rick Adelman said. "In the second half, they did whatever they wanted."It was as simple as that. This was a loss, in every sense of the word, and there was nowhere else to place the blame than squarely on the shoulders of Adelman's young team.Kevin Love, who had averaged 30 points in his past five games, finished with 21 a good night for most players, but somewhat of a letdown for the Timberwolves' forward. And as much as the Timberwolves needed those points, Love brought an attitude to the game that, though it could have spurred his team's offense, ended up dooming it."You know, they're so tough," Love said of Indiana. "They take those pills, and they've got all that toughness. I don't know where that comes from. They all think they're tough guys. I just don't know where that comes from. That just blows my mind. They're all tough. It makes me laugh."Tough. Tough. Tough. Tough. Each time Love said it, he seemed to spit out the word. To Love, the Pacers' toughness isn't something to be admired. It's a front, a way to scare opponents, and nothing else, but somehow Love and his teammates fell victim to their opponents' bullying persona.In the third quarter, down 74-67, Love fouled the Pacers' Danny Granger, which then spawned a tussle on the court. Players gathered in a circle for an almost formulaic skirmish, and Granger came away with a technical foul. It was the kind of fight that has no real impact on the score Love made his one free throw, and Granger made both of his but can have an immense impact on the trajectory of a game.Instead of capitalizing on that negative energy, the Timberwolves let Indiana harness its ill will and pull away in the fourth quarter. Instead of making the most of his dislike of the Pacers, Love was reduced to stewing in his feelings after the game."I know that none of them were going to do anything," Love said. "Just play ball. It's part of the game. Hard foul. Everybody's getting fouled out there. They're silly."If silly means going on a 20-10 run after a technical foul, then sure, the Pacers might be silly. A more objective viewer might call it resourceful, though, or even relentless. Granger said that the incident lit a fire under him, but the Timberwolves saw no similar effect.Martell Webster was most disappointed in his team's inability to internalize and deal with its emotions. Down seven in the third quarter at the time of the fouls, the Timberwolves were in no worse rut than they'd already found themselves several times this season. But they were lethargic as they'd been all night and they let those emotions blind instead of spark them."You can't be running away from the punches," Webster said. "You have to go in there with your guard up and ready to fight. Something like that is probably what you need to jump-start something, but we let them hit first, and we couldn't recover from that."Much of what happened at the Target Center on Wednesday wasn't a surprise. The Pacers' defense has only given up 30 points to an opposing player three times this season to Deron Williams, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, no less so Love's lower scoring shouldn't have been a surprise. Neither should the physicality, which both Adelman and Love said they discussed before the game. What was most shocking and disappointing was the Timberwolves' inability to react or adapt. It was as if each shove, each hard drive, left the young Minnesota team confused and off its guard. This was a game in which the Timberwolves could have been a bit reckless, a bit daring, but instead they chose to exploit the less productive aspects of their youth. They got mad, they got selfish, and they lost.Follow Joan Niesen on Twitter.
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