The Pacers were down three starters on Wednesday night, but they still had plenty of offensive firepower.
Indiana (23-27) exploded for a season-high 77 points in the first half and took a 21-point lead into halftime on its way to 141-137 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves (13-39) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Timberwolves made things interesting down the stretch, twice cutting the deficit to three in the final minutes. But Justin Holiday made four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and T.J. McConnell's shot-clock beating three in the final seconds helped Indiana outduel Minnesota in an entertaining shootout.
Seven Pacers scored in double figures in the win, with Aaron Holiday scoring a season-high 22 points in 22 minutes off the bench, going a perfect 4-for-4 from 3-point range. Big brother Justin Holiday tallied 21 while going 5-for-8 from 3-point range, while McConnell added 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting and 15 assists.
The Pacers were without leading scorers Malcolm Brogdon (sore right hip) and Domantas Sabonis (sprained left ankle) for the fourth and third straight games, respectively. Myles Turner, the NBA's leading shotblocker, joined them on the sidelines after spraining his left ankle in Tuesday's loss to Chicago.
"We're dropping like flies a little bit now and it's just kind of that next-man-up mentality," McConnell said after the win. "Credit to everyone that came in and played tonight. They came in ready and played well. We moved the ball and made shots."
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Neither team led by more than four points in a back-and-forth first quarter that featured five ties and five lead changes. Caris LeVert helped Indiana's offense get rolling early, scoring eight points in his first shift on 4-of-6 shooting.
The Timberwolves led 31-28 with just over a minute remaining in the opening frame, but the Pacers' second unit closed the quarter with six straight points to take a 35-31 advantage into the second quarter.
Reserve guard Aaron Holiday caught fire in the second quarter, scoring 14 of Indiana's first 18 points in the frame. The 6-foot guard knocked down a 3-pointer at the 11:06 mark, hit a jumper on the Pacers' next possession, added two free throws at 8:51, converted a layup at 8:22, drilled another three at 7:44, and then hit two more free throws at 7:13 to cap an impressive four-minute stretch.
As the Timberwolves defense started to key on Holiday, second-year center Goga Bitadze was the primary beneficiary. The 6-11 big man out of the Republic of Georgia converted a dunk, layup, and 3-pointer on consecutive possessions to help Indiana extend its lead to 64-47.
"That group did a good job of creating some separation in that game just by their activity and the number of stops that they had and it turned into easy baskets for us," Pacers head coach Nate Bjorkgren said.
A subsequent 9-2 run pushed the margin as high as 22 points. LeVert's layup just before the halftime buzzer capped a 42-point second quarter, the highest-scoring quarter for the Blue & Gold all season, as the Pacers took a 77-56 lead into halftime.
The visitors mounted a charge after the intermission, opening the third quarter with a 16-8 run. Minnesota center Karl-Anthony Towns scored 13 points in the first seven-plus minutes of the second half, but heading to the bench after picking up his fourth foul with four minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Naz Reid scored Minnesota's final nine points in the third quarter, with his final free throw making it a 105-94 game with 1:12 left. But a McConnell turnaround jumper on the baseline and a Kelan Martin layup gave the Pacers a little breathing room heading into the fourth quarter.
Aaron Holiday's deep 3-pointer at the start of the fourth pushed Indiana's lead to 112-94, but Anthony Edwards dominated the ensuing stretch. The top overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft scored 11 straight points on a 3-pointer and four layups to get the Timberwolves within seven.
This time it was the other Holiday brother who responded. Justin Holiday knocked down back-to-back threes to push Indiana's lead back to double digits.
But the Timberwolves answered with another run, with Edwards' 3-pointer capping a 15-7 run and making it a five-point game with 4:26 remaining. Justin Holiday hit another trey with 4:09 remaining to push the lead back to 128-120, only for the Timberwolves to reel off five straight on a Towns bucket and D'Angelo Russell 3-pointer.
On the other end, Justin Holiday missed a three, but McConnell secured the offensive rebound and kicked back out to him and the elder Holiday buried his second attempt.
Minnesota got back within three with 50.6 seconds remaining following a three-point play by Russell. On the other end, the Timberwolves trapped LeVert at the top of the key late in the shot clock. He passed left to Justin Holiday, who quickly swung the ball to a wide-open McConnell in the corner.
McConnell just got the shot off before the shot clock buzzer sounded. It was an unexpected bonus from an unlikely source — just the eighth made 3-pointer by McConnell in 47 games this season.
"I was thinking I'm about to launch (and) let this thing go," Holiday said. "...But when I saw him in the corner, I was like, 'I've got to make the good basketball play here and I think T.J.'s going to make it.' Before it went in, I was yelling, 'This is a bucket!' And it was a bucket."
"I was wide open in the corner and Justin made the right pass," McConnell added. "Credit to him. I've got to shoot a little bit more of those to keep the defense honest."
LeVert finished with 18 points, five rebounds, and four assists for Indiana in the victory. JaKarr Sampson added 16 points and five rebounds off the bench, while Doug McDermott scored 12 points.
Bitadze set a new career high with 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting (2-of-4 from 3-point range) while also tallying three rebounds, five assists, and a block.
Towns led Minnesota with 32 points on 12-of-17 shooting, 12 rebounds, and six assists. Edwards added 27 points, while Russell and Rick Rubio each had 17.
The Pacers will hit the road for a pair of games over the weekend, visiting Orlando on Friday and Memphis on Sunday.
Inside the Numbers
The Pacers shot 59.1 percent from the field in the victory, their second-highest field goal percentage in a game this season. Indiana also went 14-for-28 from 3-point range.
Aaron Holiday topped 20 points for the first time all season and set a season high with four 3-pointers. He has scored in double figures in three of his last four contests.
McConnell recorded his fifth double-double of the season and matched his season high with 15 assists. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he is the first player to have multiple 15-point, 15-assist games off the bench in one season since starts were tracked in the 1970-71 NBA season.
Bitadze started for the third time in his career and the first time this season due to the injuries to Sabonis and Turner. His 16 points were six more than his previous season high and three better than his previous career best, a mark set early in his rookie season on Nov. 6, 2019 against Washington.
The Blue & Gold scored 69 bench points, shattering their previous season high of 60 and outscoring Minnesota's reserves by 25.
You Can Quote Me On That
"When guys are moving the ball and guys are being aggressive and the ball drops, you're going to have nights like this. I think it was a tribute to how we've been playing together and playing fast." -Justin Holiday
"We had a lot of ball movement, people moving on the weakside, and just getting out in transition." -Aaron Holiday on the keys to Indiana's strong first half
"I appreciate coach believing in me. You have no idea what that does for a player's confidence...Whenever my number's called, I try to stay ready no matter what and get my teammates the best shot available." -McConnell on taking on a larger offensive role
"I'm proud of him. Goga has hung in there all year. He's gone from not playing to 10 minutes a game to 14 minutes to the start tonight. He's learning every day, he's getting better every day, and it's good for him." -Bjorkgren on Bitadze
"He's just playing the game like he always has. The ball's going in...The way the season goes, you have times when you're playing well and you can be playing as hard as you can and trying to do everything right and it doesn't work out. And there's time when it works for you. More than not, usually it's going to work out for you when you play the way Aaron does on the floor, being aggressive and not shying away from anything." -Justin Holiday on Aaron Holiday's recent strong play
Stat of the Night
The Pacers set season highs for total points (141), points in the first half (77), and points in a quarter (42 in the second quarter).
- The Pacers have won five straight games over the Timberwolves and three in a row at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. They have now swept the season series with Minnesota in each of the past two seasons.
- Indiana is now 7-4 on the year when playing on the second night of a back-to-back.
- Wednesday's win snapped a three-game skid for the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana is just 2-9 in its last 11 home games.
The Pacers tip off a two-game road trip against the Magic in Orlando on Friday, April 9 at 7:00 PM ET.
A limited number of tickets for all upcoming Pacers home games from March 17 - April 21 are now on sale. Tickets for the final nine regular season home games will go on sale on Monday, April 19. Single Game Tickets » Health & Safety Guidelines »
Broadcast Information TV & Radio Listings »
TV: Bally Sports Indiana - Chris Denari (play-by-play), Quinn Buckner (analyst), Jeremiah Johnson (sideline reporter/host)
Radio: 93.5/107.5 The Fan - Mark Boyle (play-by-play), Pat Boylan (sideline reporter/host)
Please Note: Inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Pacers radio broadcasts can be heard on 1080 AM instead of 1070.