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Undermanned Pacers hand Timberwolves 141-137 loss

Chris Hine, Star Tribune on

Published in Basketball

One self-criticism the Timberwolves have had of themselves is that they often get too enamored with their own success. It's a bold claim for the team with the worst record in the league, considering there's not all that much success to admire in the first place.

Nowhere does that show up more in the fact that the Wolves haven't won two consecutive games since the first two of the season. The Wolves had another chance to accomplish that Wednesday against an Indiana team that was missing several key contributors.

But they couldn't as Thursday's game followed a familiar script — a terrible start, followed by a scramble to come back. Once in a while that comeback is successful. More often it's not, like it was when Indiana came away with a 141-137 victory.

Aaron Holiday led seven Pacers in double figures with 22 points while brother Justin had 21. T.J. McConnell added 19 points and 15 assists. Karl-Anthony Towns scored 32 and Anthony Edwards had 27 as the Wolves got as close as two in the final seconds after a D'Angelo Russell 3-pointer with 9.4 seconds remaining, but Aaron Holiday hit a pair of free throws to ice it.

Indiana came into the game down multiple key players in T.J. Warren, Malcolm Brogdon, Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis, while Josh Okogie was a late scratch for the Wolves for personal reasons. That was enough firepower out of the lineup for Indiana that it should have given an advantage to the Wolves. It didn't.

The Wolves started cold from outside as they hit just one of their first seven from 3-point range. Russell came off the bench and was on a minutes restriction for the second consecutive game as he works his way back from left knee surgery, so he sat out as the Wolves and Pacers toggled back and forth for the lead.

As the quarter wore on the defensive apathy or ineffectiveness showed itself.

 

Towns checked out late in the first quarter for his usual rest and the wheels came off.

The Pacers led 35-31 after the first quarter and at first it was a 9-2 spurt that allowed Indiana to open a 44-36 lead a few minutes into the second. It didn't get much better when Towns re-entered. With the likes of the Holidays, LeVert and Goga Bitadze having their way with the Wolves, Indiana went on another 14-3 run to take a 64-47 lead. The Pacers outscored the Wolves 42-25 in the second quarter and tallied a season high for first-half points. They were 17 of 25 from the field for the quarter with Aaron Holiday having all 14 of his first-half points off the bench in the second. Minnesota, meanwhile, hit just 3 of 14 from deep, had 10 first-half turnovers that led to 19 points for Indiana and allowed Indiana 40 points in the paint. Indiana led 77-56 at the half.

The Wolves have shown some fight in the second halves of these games, and they came out firing away in the third like they had nothing to lose. The Wolves doubled up Indiana 16-8 as Towns and Jaden McDaniels hit from 3-point range to slice the lead to 13 and prompt an Indiana timeout. The Pacers stabilized from there as the Wolves' defense couldn't get the necessary stops to make another push. Naz Reid did his best off the bench to bring them back with 16 points. Reid and Towns combined for 22 of the Wolves' 38 in the third, and they trailed 109-94 entering the fourth.

At one point in the fourth, Edwards scored 11 straight points to try and lead a last-ditch Wolves effort. He helped cut the Pacers lead to 112-105. A quick 9-2 run from Indiana re-established control momentarily, but the Wolves kept charging thanks to Towns, who helped the Wolves get to 125-120 after an Edwards 3 with 4:26 left. The Wolves would cut it to three multiple times down the stretch but couldn't complete the comeback.

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The Star Tribune did not travel for this game. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the game.

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