Gobert’s dunks, Russell’s defense spark Wolves over Pacers for 5th straight win

Wednesday night featured the following for the Timberwolves in their 115-101 win over Indiana: Rudy Gobert catching lobs and throwing them down for dunks, Jaden McDaniels shutting down the other's team top scoring option and even D'Angelo Russell making plays on the defensive end.

The Timberwolves won their previous four games entering Wednesday despite not playing their best basketball on a consistent basis. Some nights in that streak, they backed into wins because their opponents were so depleted. That wasn't the case this game.

The Wolves (10-8) won their fifth straight game against an overachieving Indiana team with what coach Chris Finch called their "best performance of the season."

"Very, very pleasing," Finch said on a postgame video call. "Hopefully it's one more step, many more to go, but one more step in the right direction."

The Wolves answered every Indiana run, and when they might have given away the lead in other circumstances this season, they answered each surge with one of their own. The Pacers (10-7) got as close as 72-70 in the second half, but the Wolves extended the lead back to 10 by the start of the fourth and, for once, didn't relinquish a lead. There were strong performances up and down the starting lineup.

Russell had 15 points and 12 assists while pitching in three steals and a block. McDaniels helped limit Indiana guard Tyrese Haliburton to just 4-for-15 shooting and 10 points while rejecting four shots and scoring 18 points of his own.

BOXSCORE: Wolves 115, Indiana 101

McDaniels has been one of the main reasons the Wolves have strung together these five wins. Guard Austin Rivers, who had six points in place of the injured Jordan McLaughlin (left calf strain), sounded awestruck when describing what make McDaniels so good.

"Jaden's a talent, man," Rivers said on a postgame video call. "That dude, I didn't realize how good he was until I played here. I always knew he was good, but playing with him, you see stuff and you're just like, 'My goodness.' He has stuff you just can't teach. Jaden's a big-time player and he's a starter on 99 percent of the NBA. He's a big-time player."

After not registering a field-goal attempt on Monday, Gobert was active on both ends with 21 points and 16 rebounds. Finch wanted to make sure Gobert got involved early.

"We understand the value of Rudy on both ends of the floor," Finch said. "He's a great threat at the rim. He draws a lot of fouls. He's been huge for us defensively. It just takes awhile."

Gobert and his teammates rarely have had so many authoritative dunks in a game this season. Karl-Anthony Towns had 13 points in the third quarter on his way to 23 while Anthony Edwards had 19 total. The only blemish for the Wolves was that forward Taurean Prince left the game at halftime because of what the team called right shoulder irritation after a collision late in the second quarter.

The Wolves shot 61% overall while limiting the Pacers to just 39%. Except for 23 turnovers, Wednesday was a blueprint for how the Wolves want to look going forward.

"Every time [the starters] have played they've been a little better," Finch said. "I felt tonight they were really, really good out there."

The Wolves weren't under any delusions that their previous four wins were quality performances and they sounded more relieved than anything to get those victories. Wednesday's effort had a different tone.

"It feels like from start to finish we were just the better team," Rivers said. "Whereas earlier in the season we were so up in the air, a little bit all over the place, tonight we were consistent through and through. The precision was there, the focus was there."

The Star Tribune did not send the writer of this article to the game. This was written using a broadcast, interviews and other material.