Indiana (11-23) at Minnesota (7-29)

Cloudy Currently: Minneapolis, MN
Temp: 15° F
  • Game info: 8:00 pm EST Fri Jan 8, 2010
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Less than a week ago, Roy Hibbert(notes) and Luther Head(notes) helped the Indiana Pacers snap a lengthy losing streak by beating the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The two players have the chance to help the Pacers end another skid Friday night at the expense of the Timberwolves, and they could get some help in that effort.

Despite injuries and point guard T.J. Ford’s(notes) indefinite benching, Indiana (11-23) has won two of three with Hibbert and Head in the starting lineup, the most recent a 122-111 home victory over Minnesota on Saturday night. After two straight games as a reserve, Hibbert scored 21 points in his first start since Dec. 27, and Head matched that output in his second start this season as the Pacers stopped an eight-game slide.

Head has averaged 21.8 points in his four straight starts, while Hibbert, a second-year center, averaged 20.0 over the past four games. That has helped Indiana overcome the absence of leading scorer Danny Granger(notes), who has missed 16 games with a torn plantar fascia.

Starting forward Troy Murphy(notes) (sprained left ankle) also missed the past four games, and the Pacers have been without forwards Jeff Foster(notes) (sore back) and Tyler Hansbrough(notes) (ear infection). All three could return Friday, although Indiana coach Jim O’Brien will likely keep the struggling Ford off the court.

Ford is averaging 9.9 points after scoring a career-best 14.9 per game last season. His assists have dropped from 5.3 last season to 3.6, and Indiana ranks 27th in the league with 15.8 turnovers per game - also a factor in Ford’s benching.

Hibbert and Head couldn’t prevent the Pacers’ season-high seventh straight road loss Sunday, 132-89 to New York. The Pacers bounced back Tuesday night with a 97-90 victory over Southeast Division-leading Orlando as Hibbert scored a career-high 26 points and Head added 18.

“I think he’s more aggressive, he wants the ball in clutch possessions,” guard Brandon Rush(notes) said of Hibbert. “He’s playing amazing right now and I don’t think anybody can stop him.”

Stopping opponents has been the problem for the Pacers on the road, where they were outscored by an average of 16.7 points in their seven consecutive defeats. Indiana, 1-13 in their last 14 away from home, has allowed at least 100 points in eight consecutive road contests.

The Timberwolves have had similar problems at the defensive end, especially in the first half.

Minnesota (7-29) has lost five in a row, allowing at least 106 points in each game. The Timberwolves trailed 73-45 at halftime against Indiana and fell behind 61-44 midway through a 107-101 defeat to Golden State on Wednesday night.

“Once again, I was very disappointed in how our guys came out to play,” coach Kurt Rambis told the team’s official Web site. “I thought several of our ball players weren’t ready to play at the beginning of the ball game.”

Al Jefferson(notes) did seem ready, scoring 26 points to come within a point of matching his season high. He had 23 against the Pacers.

While attempting to earn consecutive victories for the first time since Dec. 11-12, Indiana will try to win its third in a row over Minnesota. The Pacers snapped a three-game skid at the Target Center with a 112-105 win Feb. 20.

Indiana has won 26 of 39 all-time meetings and 10 of 19 in Minnesota.

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Friday, Jan 8