Even those in the middle of the fray — pushing, shoving, running, competing — knew something special was going on Wednesday night.

At one point J.J. Barea looked up at the scoreboard and was stunned by how many points Kevin Love and Paul George had already scored. For much of the night, but especially in the third quarter, the two All-Star forwards went at it. Shot for shot, point for point.

“Just a great all-star battle,” Corey Brewer said, shaking his head. “Great one-on-one battle. And Kevin Love won.”

So did the Wolves.

With two starters still out with injuries, with the second-best team in the NBA visiting the Target Center, Love outdueled George and the rest of the Pacers, scoring 42 points with 16 rebounds as the Wolves began their stretch run with a 104-91 victory. George had 35 points.

Love’s big night came as speculation about his future continues to dominate the rumor mill. Longtime NBA columnist Peter Vecsey tweeted soon after the game ended that Love had informed the Wolves of his intention to leave after next season. Very quickly Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders, in his own tweet, called the report false.

But, on the court, with 15,000-plus fans watching, it was about the game. And Love and the Wolves put together what most were calling the team’s best victory of the season.

“One of our best of the year with the circumstances and the team we played,” coach Rick Adelman said.

Said Love: “This is one of my favorite wins of the season.”

It was special, from start to finish. The Wolves began the game with impressive energy, delivering a 30-point punch in the mouth to an Indiana team that might have been a bit surprised with Minnesota’s intensity level.