MINNEAPOLIS -- With two injured starters still watching from the bench, with the second-best team in the NBA in town, with a performance as memorable as any in recent memory, the Timberwolves started their stretch run in a big way.
Kevin Love's monster game -- he scored 42 points with 16 rebounds -- led the Wolves to a 104-91 victory over Indiana on a night when Love and Indiana star forward Paul George (35 points) dueled much of the night.
Their double-digit lead was down to five early in the fourth quarter, but the Wolves (26-28) did enough to keep the Pacers at bay on Wednesday night. Up by 10, the Wolves scored five consecutive points for a 15-point bulge with 31/2 minutes left.
The Wolves also got 12 points each from Corey Brewer and guard J.J. Barea. Center Ronny Turiaf, playing in place of injured Nikola Pekovic, scored 11 points with two blocks. But he injured his right knee with 7:15 left in the fourth quarter, limped to the locker room and didn't return.
Ricky Rubio passed for career-high 17 assists.
Indiana, which never led, also got 13 points from George Hill and 10 from Lance Stephenson.
Even with Love's huge numbers, this was a balanced effort in which the Wolves bench effectively held leads the starters created.
That said, the tension level was rising after the Pacers pulled within five early in the fourth quarter. But the Wolves reserves answered with six straight, with Barea's step-back jumper pushing the lead back to 11 with 8:33 left. The Wolves still led by 12 when the starters returned to the action, and the lead quickly grew to 15.
It was just the way the Wolves needed to start the post All-Star break portion of their schedule, especially with a season-long five-game road trip looming.
With Love hitting just about every shot he took and Rubio picking up eight assists, the Wolves came out flying in the first quarter, with Love hitting three of four three-pointers on the way to 12 points in the first 12 minutes. The Wolves went on a 17-5 run -- with Brewer scoring seven points on the break and Love scoring six points -- to take a 23-10 lead on Brewer's fast-break dunk off Chase Budinger's pass with just under 4 minutes left in the quarter.
The Wolves made it hold up, taking a 30-18 lead into the second quarter. It was the 21st time the Wolves had scored 30 first-quarter points.
The Wolves opened the second quarter determined to grow that lead. After Indiana scored to start the quarter, the Wolves ripped off 10 straight points -- with Dante Cunningham and Barea each scoring four -- to go up 40-20 on Barea's twisting reverse layup off the glass with 6:48 left in the half.
That lead was still 20 when the Pacers found their rhythm. A lightning-quick 6-0 run cut the lead to 14 before Wolves coach Rick Adelman could get his starters back in. And that lead grew to 13 on George's three-pointer from the corner that cut the Wolves lead to seven.
But the Wolves bounced back. Love scored seven points as the Wolves ended the half on an 8-2 run that pushed the lead back to 13.
The third quarter quickly became a battle between Love and George, who each scored 18 points in a back-and-forth third quarter with Loving hitting a fall-away jumper with 0.9 seconds left to keep the Wolves' lead at 10, 82-72, entering the fourth quarter.
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