NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Minnesota Timberwolves looked unfazed by the long-awaited return of one New Orleans’ star players or the Pelicans’ mounting urgency to win.
Anthony Edwards scored 37 points, Rudy Gobert had 17 points and 12 rebounds, and the Timberwolves spoiled Brandon Ingram’s return from a two-month absence with a 111-102 victory over New Orleans on Wednesday night.
”We’re in a position where we want to really stop worrying about the other team,” Gobert said. ”Regardless of what’s the weather or who’s hurt, whose playing, we know if we come with the right approach, the right mindset, it’s going to be a good game for us.”
D’Angelo Russell scored 19 points for the Timberwolves, who’ve won three of four. Jaden McDaniels closed out a 10-point night with a pull-up jumper and 3-pointer in the final minutes to thwart New Orleans’ comeback bid.
Minnesota coach Chris Finch praised Edwards’ ability to push the tempo and look for scoring opportunities in transition.
”That’s something we’ve been imploring him to do more of is just go, go go,” Finch said. ”In transition, he’s pretty much unstoppable.”
Ingram, who had not played since Nov. 25 and had missed 29 games with a left toe injury, scored 13 points but missed 14 of 18 shots, including all six from deep.
”Great to have him out there,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. ”He’s knocking off some rust, which we expected.”
CJ McCollum scored 25 points and Jonas Valanciunas added 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Pelicans, who lost their sixth straight and dropped their ninth in 12 games since star forward Zion Williamson went out with a right hamstring injury.
New Orleans’ frustration boiled over in the middle of the fourth quarter when Jose Alvarado was called for a loose-ball foul and then assessed a technical when he bounced the ball hard off the floor.
Green began shouting and gesticulating angrily and was assessed a technical foul. He had to be restrained by assistants as he continued lambasting officials and was ejected for the first time in his two seasons as a head coach with his a second technical. The crowd stood and roared in support of Green as he walked toward the tunnel.
”I disagreed with the foul and the technical that Jose got and kind of voiced my displeasure with it and was pretty animated,” Green said calmly afterward.
New Orleans trailed 102-87 after Minnesota hit three of the five free throws they were awarded, but the Pelicans scored the next nine points – all by McCollum – to make it 102-96 with 3:27 left.
McDaniels’ pullup stopped the run. And after Ingram hit a baseline turnaround and two free throws to make it 104-100 with 1:41 left, McDaniels hit his decisive 3.
”We desperately needed somebody to make a shot right there,” Finch said.
The Timberwolves trailed by eight early in the third quarter when Russell’s back-to-back 3s ignited a 9-0 run capped by Edwards’ driving layup as he was fouled.
Soon after, Edwards’ 3 started a 14-0 Minnesota run. Gobert, who recently missed three games with a groin injury and had been listed as questionable, threw down three dunks during the surge – one a reverse and another an alley-oop.
”I started the game a little tight, but felt better and better throughout the game,” Gobert said. ”So, it’s really a positive. At the end, I was feeling really good.”
Minnesota outscored New Orleans 39-21 in the third quarter, which ”was obviously the key,” Finch said. ”We really stepped up defensively, got out and ran and created a lot of really good looks.”
Ingram missed his first five shots before hitting a driving floater in the second quarter. At halftime, he was 2 of 11.
Still, New Orleans led by as many as 12 in the second quarter.
Minnesota cut it to 52-46 at halftime after Edwards hit a driving finger roll, giving him 20 points.
Timberwolves: Kyle Anderson scored 10 points. … Shot 48.8% (40 of 82) and made 11 of 29 from 3-point range. … Outscored New Orleans in the paint, 50-40 and 18-4 on fast breaks.
Pelicans: Devonte’ Graham made all four shots he attempted – all from 3-point range, for 12 points. … Shot 43.5% (37 of 85) and went 12 of 38 from deep. … Outrebounded Minnesota 42-36.
Timberwolves: Host Memphis on Friday night.
Pelicans: Host Washington on Saturday night.
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