MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The Indiana Pacers and Minnesota Timberwolves have been two of the league's woebegone franchises over the past five seasons or so, both dealing with their own batch of problems that has kept them from relevance.
Somehow, a heated little rivalry managed to develop anyway. Now that both franchises are on the rise, the matchups are only getting more intense.
Danny Granger scored 29 of his 36 points in the second half, and a third-quarter skirmish with Kevin Love seemed to fuel the Pacers to a 109-99 victory over the Wolves on Wednesday night.
Granger also grabbed seven rebounds and hit 5 of 8 from 3-point range, and Darren Collison thoroughly out-played Ricky Rubio with 20 points, nine assists and six rebounds for the Pacers, who topped 100 points for just the second time this season.
``I've said all along I've never liked the Pacers,' Love said. ``I guarantee the next time we play them it will be just as physical.'
The turning point came late in the third quarter, when Love and Granger tangled after a hard foul.
Love got frustrated after not getting a foul call on an offensive rebound, and the All-Star forward raked Granger across the shoulder on the other end. Granger took exception, shoving Love and jawing at him.
``Kevin Love is a friend of mine so I'm sure he didn't do it on purpose,' Granger said of his Team USA teammate. ``I think in the heat of the moment he gave me a hard foul. I got clotheslined and that's how I reacted. It kind of lit a fire under me. I kind of got going a little bit.'
Pacers coach Frank Vogel sprinted onto the court and immediately pulled Granger away from the fray as Michael Beasley and Martell Webster came to Love's defense. The officials gave the incident a long look at the replay, assessing Granger with a technical foul.
``There's a reason I sprinted out there to save him,' Vogel said. ``Did you see what he did after that point? We wanted him in the game.'
The Pacers went on a 22-12 run to blow the doors open and win for the 15th time in 21 games, their best start since 2003-04, when they went to the Eastern Conference finals. Granger scored 13 points in the surge, including a four-point play that gave them a 94-77 lead midway through the fourth.
``Danny took over,' said Roy Hibbert, who had 15 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. ``When you get the Grange mad, that's what you get, you know?'
Love had 21 points and 17 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who were completely overwhelmed by Indiana's size and flustered by the Pacers' tenacity.
``They take those pills and they've got all that toughness,' Love said with his tongue planted in his cheek. ``I don't know where that comes from. They all think they're tough guys. I just don't know where that comes from. That just blows my mind. They're all tough. And it makes me laugh.'
Love wasn't laughing for much of the game. He made 6 of 16 shots and was 0 for 3 on 3-pointers and also tangled with Tyler Hansbrough under the basket several times.
``I knew that none of them were going to do anything,' Love said. ``Just play ball. It's part of the game. Hard foul. Everybody's getting fouled out there. They're silly.'
Rubio had 10 points and six assists and Nikola Pekovic had 13 points and 12 boards.
Granger got off to a horrible start to the season, shooting 35 percent in his first 15 games. He has since found a rhythm, hitting nearly 48 percent of his shots in the last five games. He's topped 20 points in each of those games, his longest such streak since March 2010.
The Wolves were wearing Minnesota Muskies uniforms, an homage to the ABA team that played one season in 1967-68. Their offense harkened back to that era as well as they missed 15 of their first 18 shots, hit only 37 percent for the game and turned the ball over 16 times.
``You can't be running away from the punches,' Webster said. ``You have to go in there with your guard up and ready to fight. Something like that (skirmish) is probably what you need to jumpstart something. But we let them hit first and we couldn't recover from that.'
NOTES: Vogel said there was still no update on G George Hill, who broke a bone in his left foot in the game against New Jersey on Tuesday night. Hill is out indefinitely. ... Wolves G J.J. Barea played for the first time in eight games, but had seven points on 2-for-8 shooting. ... The Wolves had 14 healthy bodies for the first time. F Anthony Randolph was the first healthy scratch of the season.
The Associated Press News Service
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