NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Pelicans picked up their fourth win in their last five games with a 123-109 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
After trailing 54-48 at the half, the Pelicans outscored Minnesota 75-55 after the break to pull away for the win at Smoothie King Center.
Anthony Davis led the way with 28 points and 12 rebounds, collecting his 42nd double-double of the season. DeMarcus Cousins returned from his one-game absence with 15 points and 11 boards. Jrue Holiday bounced back from a sluggish start to finish with 21 points and seven assists, while Solomon Hill continued his strong play as of late with 13 points, five boards and five assists.
Jamal Crawford with 22 points and E’Twaun Moore with 14 led a bench unit that outscored Minnesota’s reserves, 43-26.
“We are getting contributions from everywhere,” said Pelicans Head Coach Alvin Gentry. “It’t not like we have to depend on one or two guys. I think everybody is stepping up. We’ve got some firepower off the bench. Jordan Crawford is playing great off the bench, but so is E’Twaun and so is Tim, (Frazier).”
Karl-Anthony Towns had a game-high 33 points for the Timberwolves, who lost their third straight game, all on the road.
Minnesota came out and picked the Pelicans apart in the halfcourt during the first quarter. The T-Wolves shot 65 percent in the opening period, including 50 percent from three-point range on their way to an early 34-28 lead.
The pace slowed considerably in the second, with both teams making eight field goals appeace and each scoring 20 points in the quarter.
Both teams did most of their scoring in the paint in the half, with the Pelicans holding a 26-24 edge down low.
At the outset of the second half, it would be Holiday who led the comeback for the Pels. Over the first 4:37 of the third quarter, he scored 10 of New Orleans’ 15 points, tying the game at 63 on a step back three.
Prior to the game, Gentry shifted his lineup by putting Tim Frazier in as the starting point guard and moving Holiday off the ball. For one game at least, it had the desired effect of getting Holiday into an agressive mindset offensively.
“I just thought having him be the guy that catches the pass after the initiation of the offense gave him the ability to, in one or two dribbles, be able to score,” said Gentry. “Or, in one or two dribbles, to be able to make a play. I thought it helped him out.”
“The last couple of games, I felt really comfortable,” added Holiday. “No reasons. Sometimes it happens. Obviously, basketball is up and down, and tonight I guess I had it.”
Davis added 10 more in the quarter and the Pelicans would scorch the nets by shooting 15-for-21 (71.4 pct) from the floor on their way to outscoring Minnesota 40-30 in the third to take an 88-84 lead into the fourth.
After an early bucket by Towns to start the fourth, it was Jordan Crawford’s turn to get going. Crawford, who recently picked up a two-year contract from the team, scored eight straight points to give the Pelicans a 96-88 lead with just over 10 minutes to play.
Crawford has averaged 14.2 points per game since joining the Pels two weeks ago and has provided the scoring punch off the bench the team had been searching for since Langston Galloway was traded to Sacramento. Never one to shy away from a shot, Crawford has also brought confidence to the locker room as well.
“It’s just a focus,” said Crawford. “A focus that wants to win every game, and we have a chance to win every game. If we believe and play with a little confidence, things can happen for us.”
The Pelicans were able to maintain their focus throughout the fourth quarter. Defensively, they forced five turnovers and stymied any chances for a Minnesota comeback. On the offensive end, New Orleans shot nearly 54 percent and dominated the glass with five offensive rebounds that led to six second chance points.
New Orleans also did an outstanding job in transition, outscoring the Timberwolves 33-13 in fast break points, which was a huge accomplishment considering the athletic talent on the Minnesota roster.
“They are really good offensively,” Gentry added. “You’ve got two guys out there that are very capable (Towns and Andrew Wiggins), and it keeps the pressure on you at all times. But other than that, I thought we did a pretty good job as far as defending them.”
“I just thought overall we played well.”
Still 4.5 games behind Denver for the eighth Western Conference playoff spot with only 12 games to play, the postseason seems like more than a long shot. But, if the Pelicans can close the season by figuring out an identity, fans may point to this recent stretch of solid basketball as the beginning of something good.