Early on the Timberwolves knew forward Jaden McDaniels would miss Monday's game against Indiana because of flu-like symptoms. A game-time decision found forward Jarred Vanderbilt joining him, same reason. That meant the Wolves were without those two and injured guard Patrick Beverley. Or in other words: Perhaps the team's two best starting defenders and a trio relied on to inject energy into the Wolves lineup.
Who would pick up the slack?
Just about everybody, it turns out, in Minnesota's 100-98 victory over Indiana at Target Center.
In no particular order:
- Center Naz Reid, who scored 13 off the bench on a night when Karl-Anthony Towns was battling foul trouble.
- Towns (32 points) and guard Anthony Edwards (21), who combined to score 27 of the Wolves' 30 third-quarter points.
- Guard Josh Okogie. Back in the starting lineup, his defense caused Indiana's Chris Duarte to melt down, get called for two technical fouls and get ejected in the second half. His block on Pacers forward Justin Holiday with 30.1 seconds left might have saved the victory.
- Point guard D'Angelo Russell (21 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds), who showed once again his determination to become the team's closer.
Just about everybody else who played, who helped the Wolves (11-10) hold the Pacers (9-14) to 29.3% shooting in the second half.
"I don't think this game was won because we got lucky,'' Towns said. "We went out and took the win.''
It could be said that the Wolves' past three victories — standing up to Jimmy Butler and Miami last Wednesday, losing a 20-point lead but winning in two overtimes in Philadelphia on Saturday and Monday vs. the Pacers — were games the Wolves would have lost as recently as last year. Or last month.
When the Wolves came out and looked befuddled by the Pacers' zone while falling behind 57-48 at halftime? It looked like the loss at Charlotte. But, Towns said, the team wouldn't stand for that. The talk at halftime was about bringing the energy. And, from the start of the second half, they did.
"[Monday] was just a different sort of adversity for us," Russell said. "I think it's good. The more adversity we have in these games, it prepares us for the next one."
Towns and Edwards were unstoppable in the third, which ended with the Wolves leading 78-76.
That lead grew to nine when Edwards drove for a dunk with 5:52 left, but the Pacers came back with a 13-4 run. Domantas Sabonis — who finished with 16 points and 25 rebounds — hit two free throws with 1:14 left to tie the score at 94.
But it didn't slip away. At the other end Okogie missed a three, but Russell got the rebound and got the ball to Malik Beasley, who hit a three with 52.4 seconds left. At the other end, Holiday (15 points) had his floater blocked by Okogie. With 12.6 seconds left, Reid hit one of two free throws, essentially sealing the game.
"If you really want to think about it, he won us the game," Towns said of Okogie. "That block was huge."
It was needed against a Pacers team that was playing without center Myles Turner. Malcolm Brogdon scored 25 points, Duarte 14. In the end, a lot of Wolves came up huge Monday.
"I think the biggest thing for me is, through all the good things we did, I don't think it was overall a great performance by us," Wolves coach Chris Finch said. "And we still managed to win. We did enough of the right things at the right time.''