The TWolves seemed like a team that took the much needed time off for the All-Star break to rest and recharge. Of course, Love, who carried the Wolves with his 42 points, spent the majority of that break in New Orleans representing the Wolves and the Western Conference.
Tonight was Love's fourth 40+ point outing of the season and amazingly, tonight was the first time the Wolves came out victorious.
This was also Love's second 40-point, 15-rebound & 5 three-pointer game and according to @ESPNStatsInfo, there has been one other such game EVER!
This great outing came amid reports that he could be moved prior to tomorrow afternoon's Deadline--something that won't happen, not this season! J.J. Barea, Chase Budinger, Alexey Shved & Dante Cunningham are all players that have heard their names come up in the rumor mill in potential trades, but (excluding Bud), they put that to the side for tonight and contributed to this huge win over the Eastern Conference's best team.
The Wolves were without two of their starters in Kevin Martin & Nikola Pekovic who continue to nurse injuries (though both are hopeful they'll be cleared to play this weekend), but the Pacers weren't able to capitalize on any of that.
Their superstar Paul George did superstar things, but he couldn't get any help from his fellow All-Star Roy Hibbert, former All-Star David West or All-Star 'snub' Lance Stephenson. George finished with 35 points on the night, with 18 of them coming in the third quarter alone, where George & Love battled back and forth (Love also scored 18 in the third quarter).
George went 11-for-22 from the field (50%), while the rest of the team went 24-of-65 (37%) and the rest of the starters shot 13-of-38 (34%).
The Pacers came into this game with just 12 losses on the season and fresh off a 108-98 win over the Atlanta Hawks. They've been very impressive this season, but they didn't look ready to play tonight. I was stunned that the two-headed monster of David West & Roy Hibbert didn't do more damage against a Wolves team without their starting center and an average interior defender in Love. Fortunately, Love torched West early and often and quickly got him in foul trouble. That forced West to sit early in this one and he never seemed able to get into any kind of rhythm on either end of the floor.
Ronny Turiaf did an excellent job matching up against All-Star Roy Hibbert. Roy is a player who is garnering serious consideration by most analysts as the prime candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. Ronny rose up multiple times for easy dunks with little to no resistance from the likley DPOTY.
The Wolves forced the Pacers into a lot of turnovers and they turned those miscues into easy transition buckets all night long. Indiana is a team that averages just 15 turnovers per game, but they handed the ball back to the Wolves 21 times for 18 Minnesota points. The Pacers had 8 of those 21 turnovers in the first quarter alone, 5 in the second quarter and another 6 in the fourth. That third quarter when they played their best basketball, they turned it over just twice.
The Pacers did cut the lead to just 5 points at one point in the second half, which had me a little queasy that the Wolves would blow yet another lead (considering they led by 20 points; 40-20 in the second quarter of this one). It was 82-77 early in the fourth quarter, but the Wolves finished the game outscoring the Pacers 22-14 in the final ten minutes of action to walk away with the improbable 104-91 victory.
Tonight's box score...
The Wolves shot just 58.1% from the line, missing 13 of their attempts, had the Pacers completed their comeback, those missed free throws would've been a real back-breaker.
The Wolves are now two games below .500 and they're now 5.5 games behind the Dallas Mavericks for that 8th and final seed in the Western Conference. The trade deadline is at 2pmCST time tomorrow and if you've tuned in to Twitter lately you know the Wolves have been active in trade talks, stay tuned to HOWL tomorrow for all the latest. Minnesota doesn't play again until Saturday in Utah vs. the Jazz.