Postgame wrap: Timberwolves 121, Pelicans 120
Officially this is Week 4 of the NBA schedule, but for New Orleans it turned into payback week. After avenging previous losses to Dallas and Denver by beating the Mavericks and Nuggets on Tuesday and Friday, the Pelicans tried to do the same Saturday vs. Minnesota, but couldn’t close out the Timberwolves in the fourth quarter. Minnesota erased a double-digit final-period deficit, pulling off a one-point victory when Karl-Anthony Towns banked in a difficult driving shot with 5 seconds remaining. Brandon Ingram led New Orleans with 30 points, along with seven rebounds and four assists. Ingram attempted to win the game in the final seconds with a stepback mid-range jumper, but the shot came up short and hit the front rim just before the buzzer.
Small plays big.
With Zion Williamson (rest in latter half of back-to-back) out of action, New Orleans had a few options lineup-wise, and decided to go small, moving Jordan Hawkins back into the first string, shifting Ingram to power forward. Normally an undersized lineup would be concerned about how it holds up in the paint, but the Pelicans outrebounded the Timberwolves and its 7-foot tandem of Rudy Gobert and Towns by a 40-33 tally.
Yeoman’s work from Jonas.
NOLA starting center Jonas Valanciunas sometimes needs to space out to the three-point line when paired with Williamson, but in Saturday’s game, he operated much more frequently in the paint. That was not a good development for Minnesota. Squared off against Gobert, Towns and quality Wolves reserve big Naz Reid, Valanciunas compiled a 26-point, 11-rebound, three-block night.
Herb everywhere – again.
Continuing to perform at perhaps the highest level of his three-year NBA career, Herb Jones produced a stat line of 13 points, four rebounds, eight assists (tying a career high in dimes), two steals and two blocks in just 28 minutes, before fouling out in the fourth quarter. It’s barely a story anymore when Jones leads the Pelicans in plus-minus, but they were plus-11 Saturday with him on the court, best for anyone from the home team.
12/29: New Orleans three-point shooting, representing a third consecutive above-average game from beyond the arc for the Pelicans. This category turned into a virtual draw Saturday, because Minnesota was 13/31, but the Timberwolves also got a couple momentous late treys by Towns and Anthony Edwards (fouled out with 23 points).
53.8: Minnesota shooting percentage from the field, a pivotal stat. New Orleans won rebounding and delivered team shooting splits of 51/41/87, but the visitors nearly matched that at 54/42/82.
47: Total fouls in Saturday’s game. There were plenty of whistles in a conference matchup that saw two key players disqualified and two others pick up five personals. That kept the minute workload down in a few instances, with New Orleans playing the second game of a back-to-back.