The New Orleans Pelicans defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves at home 123-109 to keep their playoff aspirations alive. The Pelicans (29-41) now have a half game lead over the Wolves (28-41) in the Western Conference standings. Minnesota led at the half but New Orleans came alive and scored 75 points in the second half.
Anthony Davis led the Pelicans with 28 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 assists. Jrue Holiday scored 21, with 14 coming in the second half. Jordan Crawford put in 22 and E’Twan Moore had 14 off the bench. DeMarcus Cousins posted a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds and Solomon Hill hit double figures with 13.
Karl-Anthony Towns led all scorers with 33 on 14 of 27 shooting. Andrew Wiggins had 25 points and reserve Shabazz Muhammad scored 20. Rubio’s double-double of 10 points and 14 assists was not enough to counter the Pelicans second-half onslaught.
The teams got off to fast starts, scoring on the first 7 possessions. The T-wolves jumped out to a 12-5 lead. The Pelicans then scored on their next 6 possessions. The early quick pace continued as the Timberwolves shot 65% from the field and 4-8 from beyond the arc to take a 34-28 first quarter lead.
Minnesota turned up the pressure on defense but only scored 6 points off 8 forced New Orleans second quarter turnovers. In the battle of the big men, Towns had the same amount of points (16) as Cousins and Davis combined at halftime. The Wolves led 54-48 at the break.
Holiday heated up to start the second half going 4 for 4. His second three-pointer of the third quarter helped New Orleans tie it at 63 after an 8-0 run. Following a Wiggins miss from 17 feet at the top of the key, Gorgui Dieng tapped it out to Rubio who buried it from beyond the arc to put the Wolves back in front. The Pelicans took their first lead of the game on an alley oop from Holiday to Davis at the 6:00 mark. Towns quickly answered with a 3 ball that hit nothing but net. The Pelicans shot 71% from the field and led by 4 after the third quarter.
Jordan Crawford started out the final quarter hot, scoring 10 points in the first two minutes. Towns and Shabazz Muhammad picked up the offense down the stretch but it wasn’t enough to offset the Pelicans balanced attack. New Orleans pulled away, outscoring the Timberwolves 35-25 in the fourth quarter.
That and This
-The Wolves lost for the 17th time this season after having a double-digit lead.
-The Wolves surrendered 40 points in the 3rd quarter which matched the season high.
-Kris Dunn was the only Wolves player to finish in the plus category of efficiency at +1.
-Despite overall solid offensive numbers lately, Shabazz Muhammad’s third quarter 3-pointer was his first in the month of March.
-Muhammad’s 20 points tied the Minnesota Timberwolves record for 20 point games as a reserve.
-The Pelicans scored 31 fast break points in the second half.
-The Pelicans won all 3 meetings with the Wolves this season by double-digits.
-The Pelicans bench outscored the Wolves reserves 46-26.
-Jordan Crawford led all scorers from the bench. Before signing a 10-day contract on March 6, Crawford had been out of the NBA since 2014. He worked hard playing in China and in the NBA D-League and was rewarded with a 2 year deal on March 17.
The New Orleans Pelicans host the Memphis Grizzlies (40-30) on Tuesday, March 21. The Pelicans are now 4.5 games behind the Denver Nuggets for the 8th and final Western Conference playoff spot. The slumping Minnesota Timberwolves host the San Antonio Spurs (54-16) on Tuesday. The Spurs are 2.5 games behind the Golden State Warriors for Western Conference homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs.
Photo courtesy of Jonathan Bachman, Associated Press