In a matchup between the NBA’s most prolific offense and stoutest stoppers, the team with the league’s No.1-rated defense flexed its muscles at the final buzzer.

Down by two points with six seconds left in the game, Indiana Pacers forward Aaron Nesmith corralled a long pass from Tyrese Haliburton, saw some space and drove to the rim full-tilt with a chance to send the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves (44-19) to overtime.

Wolves All-Star guard Anthony Edwards, however, had other thoughts.

Edwards sprinted down the floor after missing a free throw, rose up from the middle of the paint and blocked Nesmith’s layup attempt, ultimately helping his team to a 113-111 win over the Pacers (35-29) on Thursday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. With the loss, Indiana has now dropped six straight games against the Wolves, who remain atop the Western Conference standings.

After trailing by 11 points at halftime, the Pacers posted 34 points in the third quarter to knot the game at 83-83 going into the final 12 minutes. In the final frame, the teams battled to the end, but it was Edwards’ final block and hot shooting that proved the difference.

Edwards led all scorers with 44 points on 18-for-35 (3-for-7 3-point) shooting, three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert scored 18 points and pulled down 14 rebounds, and Jaden McDaniels finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Wolves.

Pascal Siakam led the Pacers with 24 points, All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton logged 23 points and 13 assists, and Jalen Smith added 14 points off the bench.

Indiana shot 51.2 percent from the field to Minnesota’s 46.9 percent. The Pacers were outscored 66-60 in the paint and outrebounded 48-39 by the visitors.

Both teams were without key players Thursday. Wolves All-Star forward Karl Anthony-Town sat out with left knee soreness, and Pacers second-year guard Bennedict Mathurin was sidelined with a right shoulder sprain. Pregame, Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said Mathurin is expected to miss at least the next four games and will be re-evaluated next week.

The Wolves built a double-digit lead early in the first quarter and stayed ahead the remainder of the first half, holding a 60-49 lead over the Pacers at intermission. Minnesota dominated the paint in the first half, outscoring the Pacers 44-26 from inside and outrebounding Indiana 21-14.

Edwards had 15 points for the Wolves, 11 of which came in the second quarter, while Siakam led the Blue & Gold with 14 points at the break.

The Pacers struggled to find an offensive rhythm in the early minutes, falling behind by as many as 14 points in the first quarter before solid bench play narrowed the deficit to 33-23 by the end of the period. Indiana shot 44.4 percent in the first quarter while giving up 24 points in the paint.

In the first 3:30 of the game, the Wolves used a 10-0 run, anchored by an and-one by Gobert and a 3-pointer from Mike Conley, to lead 14-5 and force a Pacers timeout. Out of the huddle, Minnesota extended its scoring run to 25-8 on several baskets from close range and a 3-pointer by Naz Reid to go up 25-13 with 2:55 left in the first quarter.

T.J. McConnell injected some life into the Pacers’ offense in the remaining minutes, scoring a pair of baskets, drawing an offensive foul and grabbing a steal to help cut it to 10 points by the first-quarter buzzer.

“The game was pretty clearly lost in the first quarter,” Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said. “The first quarter was a dud. We didn’t come out with attitude or presence. We got in a big hole, were poor defensively, and from there it was an uphill climb.”

Edwards’ 11 points in the second quarter helped the Wolves to stay ahead by as many points by halftime.

Siakam made three of his first four shots to start the second quarter, but a 12-4 Wolves run punctuated by an Edwards 3-pointer propelled the Wolves to a 45-32 advantage with 7:22 left in the half.

The Wolves then extended their scoring to a 21-9 run, which included a 7-0 string in which T.J. Warren nailed a 3-pointer, and Edwards got back-to-back layups to fall to lead 54-37 and force another Pacers timeout.

Out of the mini-break, the Pacers responded with baskets from Isaiah Jackson, Andrew Nembhard and Siakam, but the Wolves largely went bucket-for-bucket down the last stretch of the first half.

In the third quarter, the Pacers shot 52 percent while holding the Wolves to 32.1 percent to even the score at 83 a piece. Edwards accounted for 13 of the Wolves’ 23 points in the frame, and Haliburton scored nine of the Pacers’ 34 in the third quarter.

Indiana came out of the locker room red-hot, putting together a 19-6 scoring streak – including two 8-0 runs – to go ahead 68-66 with 6:18 on the clock.

The first play of the third quarter set the tone for the second half, as Nembhard collected an offensive rebound and got it to Nesmith, who drilled a 3-pointer. Myles Turner then scored four straight points before the Pacers’ second 8-0 run, which ended on a two-handed flush by Turner, gave the Pacers the lead back for the first time since the opening minutes.

In the final 4:34, the teams traded the lead seven times before a 3-pointer before Nickeil Alexander-Walker stole the ball with five seconds left, was fouled, and hit two free throws to re-tie the game at 83.

The teams stayed within four points of each other in the fourth quarter until an 11-4 run by the Wolves, where Edwards scored six points, gave the visitors a 101-96 lead with 4:49 left in the game.

Indiana answered with an 8-2 run, with Haliburton scoring on a floater and layup and Siakam throwing down a thunderous dunk with two minutes left, to put the Pacers back ahead.

Minnesota again answered, with Conely draining a deep shot before Haliburton split free throws after a hard foul to tie the game at 105 with 1:25 left.

From there, Edwards took over the Wolves.

Edwards then rose on the next possession and drained a pull-up 3-pointer, the Wolves got a stop, and he hit another jump shot from 15 feet before Turner answered with a 3-pointer to make it 110-108. After Edwards got another floater to fall, his third straight make, Nesmith was fouled from beyond the arc and hit all his free throws to make it a one-point game with 16 ticks left.

“Ant made some special shots, that’s what he does, and they are a great defensive team,” Haliburton said. “Last play, I thought we got a good look. It was just a special defensive play by Ant.”

On the ensuing possession, Edwards split free throws before he ran down the court and blocked Nesmith.

The Pacers will play their next two games on the road, starting with the Orlando Magic on Sunday at Kia Center.

Stat of the Night

Anthony Edwards has scored 40 points or more in three games this season. He scored 29 of his team’s 53 total points in the second half, including 16 in the fourth quarter.

Inside the Numbers

Indiana’s biggest lead was two points and Minnesota’s was 17.

The Pacers were 17-for-23 from the free throw line and the Wolves shot 14-for-19.

Tyrese Haliburton has 36 double-doubles this season.

After shooting 54.2 percent in the first half, the Timberwolves were limited to 40 percent in the second half.

Jalen Smith matched a career-high in assists by dishing out four dimes.

Former Indiana Pacer T.J. Warren signed a 10-day contract with the Timberwolves on March 6. He played just under six minutes and scored seven points for the Wolves.

Indiana’s bench outscored Minnesota’s second unit 37-32.

The Pacers had 10 blocks as a team, led by four swats from Myles Turner.

You Can Quote Me on That

“This is where a young team has to learn, grow and get better.” – Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle on the loss

“We just didn’t have the attitude you need to have against a physical, high-level team like this. We paid a heavy price for it. Halftime was pretty animated. We talked about physicality. … But it can’t be just when you get punched in the mouth. We have to learn from it. Nothing is given. Everything has to be earned” – Carlisle on the loss

“I think things slowed down. He’s just calm, steady and proven, and makes play after play down the stretch. I thought he did a really good job for us getting buckets when the game kind of slowed down.” –Tyrese  Haliburton on Siakam

“I know that we need to figure it out. We just can’t start games like that. All of us. The starters need more energy.” – Siakam on the slow start

“He made some tough shots. Credit to him. There was some really good defense on those shots. He made some tough shots. Sometimes a player like that gets going.” – Siakam on Edwards


Tyrese Haliburton passed Vern Fleming for third-most games in Pacers history with 10 or more assists in a game by logging his 85th, according to ESPN. He now just trails Mark Jackson (130) and Jamaal Tinsley (85).

Pacers forward Doug McDermott has missed five straight games with a calf injury.

Minnesota guard Mike Conley Jr. is a graduate of Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis. From 2004 to 2006, he helped guide the Wildcats to three straight state championships.


The Pacers will be back at Gainbridge Fieldhouse to tip off a three-game homestand against DeMar DeRozan and the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, March 13 at 7:00 PM ET.