Mired in their worst losing streak in nearly three years, some of the Indiana Pacers seem to be losing faith.
The stumbling Pacers hope to regain some confidence and avoid losing a ninth consecutive game Saturday night when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first meeting of the season between the struggling teams.
Indiana (9-22) looked strong early this season, winning five of its first eight games, but things have completely fallen apart. The Pacers are 4-19 since Nov. 18, and have lost eight straight since a 101-98 win over Charlotte on Dec. 16.
Indiana is missing 2009 All-Star Danny Granger(notes) (torn right plantar fascia), Troy Murphy(notes) (sprained left ankle) and Tyler Hansbrough(notes) (inner-ear infection). Granger and Murphy will likely still be out for at least another week, but Hansbrough could return for this game.
Even the returns of those players may be no panacea for a team with problems that run much deeper than its injured list.
“We have to assess ourselves and be honest,” Pacers forward Dahntay Jones(notes) said following Wednesday’s 121-110 loss at home to Memphis. “Certain people are not fighting as hard as others. We have to find a way to bring it every night. Chemistry is a problem right now, but we’ve got to find five guys to play hard together on a consistent basis.”
Luther Head(notes) tied a career high with 30 points Wednesday, while Roy Hibbert(notes) had a career-best 25 points with 13 rebounds. Their efforts, though, couldn’t halt Indiana’s longest losing streak since an 11-game skid Feb. 23-March 14, 2007.
Rarely have the scores been close during the current slide, with the Pacers losing by an average of 11.5 points.
“Guys are disappointed,” coach Jim O’Brien said. “The whole organization is disappointed with where we are right now.”
Minnesota’s situation may be even worse.
The Timberwolves (7-27) own the league’s second-worst record and have lost three in a row.
Minnesota had a chance to beat Southeast Division-leading Orlando on Friday, leading 77-75 with 10 minutes remaining, but once again failed to get many stops the rest of the way and lost 106-94.
Defensive play has determined the Timberwolves’ fate in recent games. Minnesota has lost six of nine, allowing an average of 114.0 points in the six defeats, compared to 94.7 in the wins.
The 6-foot-10 Love finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds Friday for his 11 consecutive double-double. He has 14 double-doubles in 16 games this season after missing the first month with a broken left hand.
The Timberwolves and Pacers split two meetings last season with the road team winning each time.