The Indiana Pacers keep getting out to quick starts under interim coach Frank Vogel.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are very happy with the start to their road trip.
The Pacers look to extend their season-high winning streak at Conseco Fieldhouse to five Friday night when they face a Timberwolves team trying to post three straight road victories for the first time in two seasons.
Since coach Jim O’Brien was fired Jan. 30, the Pacers (22-28) have won five of six under Vogel to move into eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
Wednesday’s 104-103 victory over Charlotte pushed Indiana one game ahead of the Bobcats and within a game of seventh-place Philadelphia.
“It’s big right now, but we have higher aspirations than the eighth spot,” Vogel said. “We think we’re a very good basketball team. We’re hoping to make a run down the stretch that’s going to be special.”
Hot starts could help the Pacers make that push. They made 13 of 24 shots in the opening 12 minutes Wednesday for their eighth consecutive game at 50 percent or better in the first quarter - they’ve led after seven of them. They are averaging 31.7 points in that period under Vogel and nearly 10 more per game since the former assistant took charge.
They’ve averaged 108.0 points during their four-game win streak at home.
In Minnesota’s last visit to Conseco Fieldhouse, Indiana led 73-45 at halftime and rolled to a 122-111 victory Jan. 2, 2010.
The Pacers have won 16 of 20 all-time at home in this matchup, but the Timberwolves (13-39) enter this contest with plenty of confidence after defeating New Orleans and Houston to open their three-game trip.
Playing without starters Michael Beasley(notes) (ankle), Darko Milicic(notes) (hip) and Luke Ridnour(notes) (personal reasons), who all could be out again Friday, Minnesota snapped a 13-game skid to the Rockets with Tuesday’s 112-108 victory.
“We’ve got guys down, guys injured, guys out for personal reasons,” Wayne Ellington(notes) said after scoring 18 points off the bench. “We were really trying to pick each other up and do everything as a unit, and that ended up paying off for us.”
While coach Kurt Rambis has pieced together starting lineups with Jonny Flynn(notes), Wes Johnson(notes) and backup center Nikola Pekovic(notes), All-Star forward Kevin Love(notes) has been the team’s most consistent player. He had 20 points and 14 rebounds Tuesday for his 38th straight double-double, breaking Kevin Garnett’s(notes) team record.
It’s the longest such streak since Moses Malone had 44 in a row for Philadelphia in 1982-83.
“There are nights where it’s bittersweet (when I get a double-double),” Love said. “Tonight, it was more sweet than anything, because we got the win and got it on the road.”
Love was held to 16 points and eight rebounds in last season’s loss in Indiana, which snapped his season-high 11-game double-double streak.
Pacers center Roy Hibbert(notes) has four double-doubles in six games under Vogel while averaging 18.7 points, 5.8 more than his season average. He had a career high-tying 29 points with 10 rebounds Wednesday.
Hibbert averaged 18.0 points as the Pacers and Timberwolves split two meetings last season.
Minnesota, 2-23 on the road prior to this trip, last won three straight away from home April 3-8, 2009.