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NBA: Indiana Pacers at Minnesota Timberwolves
The Wolves Backcourt Bros. shared a hug in happiness.
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Wolves 121, Pacers 115: Two-Way Ant, 4th Quarter D’Lo, and Closing Rudy Chants

The Wolves found a way to move back to .500

MINNEAPOLIS — A season of up-and-down play continued Wednesday night vs. Indiana. The Wolves jumped on the Pacers fast with a furious defensive effort that allowed them to get out in transition. It was the Anthony Edwards and Rudy Gobert show to start, leading by 23 points four minutes into the second.

They were in total control, but the slippage started to show once coach Chris Finch had to go deep into his bench bag by calling upon recent G-League call-up, Luka Garza, and rookie Wendell Moore Jr. to fill minutes with Naz Reid and Austin Rivers in quick foul trouble with three apiece. That started the issues, even if the “Luka Garza” chants and enthusiasm buzzed in the air. By halftime, fans weren’t glowing so much over Garza, but once again facing another inevitable tide turn with the lead down to two points. This version of the Wolves seems to go in and out of consciousness for significant stretches on a nightly basis, and they stayed true to form.

A back-and-forth second half saw various lead changes, as the Wolves dominated the paint (64 points and +18 on the glass) and the Pacers were on fire from deep to keep the pressure on. Tyrese Haliburton (26 points), Buddy Hield (26 points), and Myles Turner (23 points) were all cooking from the arc on their way to a combined 19-42 from three. Bennedict Mathurin struggled from the field (5-15) but his super rookie season has been undeniable.

The two-way dynamite version of Anthony Edwards showed up, flashed his all-around skill set, and proved again what he and the team is capable of when he’s locked in defensively. Edwards finished with 26 points, 8 dimes, 6 rebounds, and 7 steals. (Ant has been a steal machine with 17 steals in the last 3 games.) He was 8-18 and added six turnovers, but was also 9-10 from the line. Mostly, the way he came out really set the tone. This team seems to respond to the engaged two-way leadership of a deeply fiery Ant that we’ve seen recently.

“He’s learning how to be a pro, on and off the floor,” said D’Angelo Russell. “You can see the development, him focusing on his craft and consistency with his routine. ... He came through and he led. We followed.”

Then there was Rudy Gobert, who threw down a couple of ferocious slams early to set his tone for the paint. THIS IS MY PAINT ALL NIGHT LONG. And it was. Gobert finished the game with 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting including 4-of-5 from the free-throw line, 21 rebounds, three steals, and two blocks. Rudy gobbled up rebounds with force, rim-rolled with fury, and dominated down low. It was a perfect example of what the Ant-Rudy tag team can still achieve with Karl-Antony Towns on the sidelines while his injured calf heals. Especially when the $31 million point guard joins the show, too.

D’Angelo Russell came to save the day, as he’s done before, with a major scoring punch in the final frame—15 of his 28 points were in the fourth—and Minnesota held on to win, 121-115. They wouldn’t have won this without the D’Lo-driven fourth. Yet again, his consistent production feels like one of the biggest driving forces of success.

“Come on, man. Y’all seen it before. Humbly speaking, I feel like I try to come alive, no matter how the game is going in the fourth. Those last few minutes I try to make something out of nothing a lot of times.”

They certainly won't win it without Gobert’s superb closing act, either. With the game tied at 115-115, with 32 seconds left, Gobert hit two clutch free throws to go up two. He followed those nerve-wracking attempts with his signature block of the season on a Buddy Hield 3-foot driving layup with 11.4 seconds left.

Gobert shut down the night the way Wolves fans dreamed he could when acquired this summer in that blockbuster deal that lingers on the minds of so many after a stumbling start. The “RUDY, RUDY, RUDY, RUDY, RUDY” chants erupted inside Target Center in what can be described as the most sensational sequence of his short time in Minneapolis.

“Yeah, it was great,” said Gobert. “But we gotta build on that. It’s one game. What people don’t know about me, I don’t stop. Adversity, shit happens, but you don’t stop. You keep building.”

Jaylen Nowell added 14 points, finishing a team-best +21 off the bench. Jaden McDaniels scored 12, including one ‘going for blood’ type of monster dunks that give teams some juice when they need some (see video below).

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