MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Jrue Holiday just missed his second triple-double against Minnesota in less than a week, putting up a season-high 37 points and adding nine rebounds and eight assists for the New Orleans Pelicans in a 120-107 victory over the Timberwolves on Sunday.
Zion Williamson scored 23 points on 9-for-15 shooting, Lonzo Ball had 18 points and eight assists, and Brandon Ingram pitched in 15 points and 12 rebounds to help the Pelicans start a four-game trip with the victory.
Malik Beasley had 21 points and nine rebounds, and D’Angelo Russell scored 19 points for the Timberwolves. They got 42 points from their reserves.
Still harboring an outside shot at the playoffs, the Pelicans passed Portland for 10th place in the Western Conference and pulled within four games of eighth-place Memphis with Sacramento in ninth place. The Pelicans improved to 11-7 over their last 20 games and have won 15 of their last 18 games against opponents with losing records.
Even the defense has enjoyed an uptick following Williamson’s debut after the super-sized, super-skilled rookie missed more than half of the season recovering from knee surgery. New Orleans held the Timberwolves to 22 fewer points than in its 139-134 defeat at home five days ago. Holiday had 27 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists in that game. This was his fourth 30-point performance of the season. In three matchups with the Wolves this season, he’s averaging more than 27 points.
Williamson’s first appearance in Minnesota and the matinee tipoff time contributing to a sizable crowd, the two highest-scoring teams in the NBA over the four-plus-week span since the trade deadline on Feb. 6 did not disappoint for action.
Williamson took all of 16 seconds to assert himself, bullishly driving into the lane with little impediment on the first possession and throwing down a two-handed slam. The 19-year-old and first overall pick in the draft had four dunks in the first 7 1/2 minutes of the game, including two off perfect lob passes from Ball that came during a 21-4 spurt by the Pelicans covering barely more than four minutes. The first alley-oop from Ball traveled almost three-quarters of the court.
After overhauling the roster a month ago to bring in Russell and accelerate their rebuild around their analytic-friendly, 3-point-driven offense, the Wolves have played with a noticeable energy despite the absence of star center Karl-Anthony Towns — at 11 games and counting with a broken left wrist — and their glaring deficiencies on defense.
The Wolves surged right back with a 17-3 run, capped by a dunk by Jarrett Culver that pulled them within 36-33. Just a half-minute later, Jake Layman’s soaring slam over Derrick Favors had the players on the bench beside themselves with glee. The Wolves were tied halfway through the second quarter, but they were never able to get in front and fell behind by as many as 20 points after halftime when E’Twaun Moore sank a corner 3-pointer for a 98-78 lead.
Williamson’s arrival has been a big lift for the entire team, let alone the league, but the player who has benefited the most has been Ball. The third-year point guard, who was part of the package from the Lakers in the deal that sent Anthony Davis to Los Angeles, has sent 34% of his assists to Williamson. The next-closest teammate is Ingram at, entering the game, 15%.
Pelicans: J.J. Redick sat out for the fifth straight game due to a strained left hamstring. … Two-way rookie Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who has not played for New Orleans in nearly a month, was diagnosed on Saturday with a hairline fracutre in his right wrist and will be out indefinitely.
Timberwolves: Rookie Kelan Martin was inactive with a sprained left ankle. … Minnesota is 9-19 without Towns (.321 winning percentage) this season and 10-25 with him (.286).
Pelicans: Play at Sacramento on Wednesday night. They face the Kings again at home on March 22, between matchups with current eighth-place-holder Memphis. They don’t play Portland anymore.