“This is one of my favorite wins of the season just because we played a very good team,” Love said. “We did it without two key players and we fought hard.”
“We just didn’t have a whole lot of pop tonight,” said David West, who scored four points and struggled guarding Love all night. “This is a game that I thought we would come out and play a little better than we did. We just didn’t have it, just a step or two slow.”
It was Love’s eighth straight game with at least 25 points and 10 rebounds, the longest streak since Shaquille O’Neal accomplished the same feat Jan. 3-19, 2005. Love has an NBA-best 14 games with 30 points and 10 rebounds this season.
“I thought a lot of the shots he made was good defense,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “You have to give him credit. He is an extraordinary player and he played an extraordinary game tonight.”
In their first game since the All-Star break as they try to make a late-season run and catch Golden State for the final playoff spot in the West, the Wolves came out running and led by 16 when Love came out for a rest 3 minutes into the second quarter.
Minnesota’s reserves have been unable to hold their ground when Love goes to the bench recently, but they did fine on Wednesday. Barea, the subject of recent trade rumors, scored eight straight points during one stretch - including a circus shot on the fast break over C.J. Watson that increased Minnesota’s lead to 20 with 6:48 left in the half.
“When he gets his rest, we need other people to step up,” Barea said. “Tonight, we were able to do that.”
Minnesota, playing without injured starters Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin, led by as many as 17 in the third quarter. However, with Love sitting to start the fourth, a jumper from Watson early in the quarter cut Indiana’s deficit to five and gave the Pacers hope.
But again, Minnesota’s reserves held on. Barea knocked down a jump shot in front of the Wolves bench to extend the lead back to 11 with 8:33 to play and the Wolves never looked back.
“Coach came to me and said he’s going to give me a little bit of a rest,” Love said. “He came to me during the timeout and said ‘These guys are rolling.’ I said ‘Great, just keep them in as long as you need to.’ Those guys just did a great job and really stepped up and took advantage of the opportunity tonight.”