Butler, Timberwolves outlast Pelicans
NEW ORLEANS—Jimmy Butler pump-faked E'Twaun Moore off his feet and canned a 20-foot jumper and free throw with 34.2 seconds left to lift the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 104-98 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night at the Smoothie King Center.
Butler also made a foul shot with 19.7 seconds remaining to finish with a team-high 23 points. The Timberwolves (5-3) also got 18 points from Andrew Wiggins and placed four others in double figures.
The Pelicans (3-5) lost their second consecutive home game despite 35 points and nine rebounds by DeMarcus Cousins and 24 points by Anthony Davis.
The Timberwolves used an 11-0 run bridging the third and fourth quarters to build an 88-77 lead. The Pelicans responded with an 11-4 spurt that cut the lead to 92-88 with 5:49 left, but the run was cut short when Davis missed a pair of free throws.
Cousins hit a pair of free throws and a dunk with 3 minutes left to move the Pelicans within 96-94.
Minnesota had to feel good about leading 83-77 after three quarters because Towns continued to go scoreless as he picked up his fourth foul. Wiggins also missed all five of his 3-point attempts.
The Timberwolves took a 65-54 lead at halftime even though Towns picked up three quick fouls, played only seven minutes and was held scoreless. The Minnesota bench outscored the New Orleans reserves 31-9 in the first half.
Cousins had 19 first-half points for the Pelicans, but he also committed six of the Pelicans' 13 turnovers, giving him a combined 12 turnovers in six quarters of game action.
Cousins' worst miscue was an outlet pass that was picked off by Jamal Crawford at half court. Crawford then nailed a jumper from midcourt as the first quarter ended, giving Minnesota a 31-28 first-quarter lead.
The Timberwolves shot 60.5 percent in the first half (26 of 43), and they scored 19 points off turnovers. They also got a cheap basket at the end of the second quarter on an inbounds pass for a dunk by Taj Gibson.
NOTES: Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau said the collection of Kentucky talent on display Wednesday night was impressive—C Karl-Anthony Towns, C DeMarcus Cousins and F Anthony Davis. "You've probably got to give (John) Calipari some credit for recruiting great big men," Thibodeau said. "They are so unique, all three of them." Thibodeau said Davis can "out-quick you"; Cousins has "great quickness, great feet and hands"; Towns has "guard-like qualities—he can shoot the three, he can put it on the floor, he can Eurostep." ... Thibodeau said he is pleased with the way his team is closing out close games. "For us, it's about improvement," he said. "We can't get tired of the grind of putting the work in and that's the important thing." ... Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry has been preaching consistency of effort and offensive rebounding. "We have to get those guys crashing the offensive boards and do the best we can to get some extra shots and extra possessions," Gentry said.