NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Jaylen Nowell hit six 3-pointers on his way to a career-best 28 points, top overall draft choice Anthony Edwards scored 27 points, and the Minnesota Timberwolves rallied from an early 16-point deficit to rout the New Orleans Pelicans 135-105 on Thursday night.
“It also was the most fun that I had,” Nowell said. “We all were having fun, just happy for each other. And that’s what kind of led to me feeling good, so I just decided to turn it up, get more buckets. … When I felt it was the right time to start scoring, I did it.”
The remarkable 46-point swing gave Timberwolves coach Chris Finch, a New Orleans assistant the previous three seasons, his first victory in six games since taking his first NBA head-coaching job with Minnesota on Feb. 22.
“It was great. You know, we threw a little water on him,” Edwards said of the celebration in the locker room. “He was freezing cold, so he got out of there real fast.”
Rookie Jaden McDaniels hit his first four 3s and finished with a career-high 20 points for Minnesota, which won for just the eighth time this season — and second time against New Orleans.
“Finally, we get to go back and have something to smile about, splashed coach with the water,” Nowell said. “It’s a great feeling. Honestly, I forgot what this feeling felt like. So it’s great to find that out again.”
Karl-Anthony Towns scored 16 points and former LSU standout Naz Reid added 15 for the Timberwolves, who combined for 19 3-pointers on 40 attempts (47.5%).
Zion Williamson scored 24 points for New Orleans. Steven Adams had 13 points and 12 rebounds and Brandon Ingram added 13 points. But the Pelicans struggled to shoot from 3-point range, going 6 for 32. They compounded that by committing 18 turnovers, which led to 31 Minnesota points.
“We’re so bad defensively that we can’t have a bad offensive night,” Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said. “If we have a bad offensive night, we’re going to get crushed like we did.
“We didn’t compete. We didn’t help each other,” Van Gundy continued. “A really embarrassing evening for us tonight. They played well. They were inspired to play. We didn’t seem to care and we got what we deserved.”
After Edwards’ dunk and 3 in succession gave Minnesota an 88-70 lead in the third quarter, boos could be heard emanating from the socially distanced crowd of about 3,700.
New Orleans led 26-10 with 4:03 left in the first quarter. Williamson got going with eight early points inside, highlighted by his thunderous dunk on a baseline cut.
But the Wolves methodically rallied, helped by reserves McDaniels and Reid. McDaniels made his first five shots, including two 3s, while Reid made five of his first six attempts.
“The second group came in with aggressiveness,” Edwards said. “They led us down a really, really good path.”
Towns, who’d missed his first six 3s, finally made one as time expired in the first half to give the Wolves a 40-point second quarter and 67-60 lead.
Timberwolves: Towns’ buzzer-beater at the end of the first half extended his streak of games with at least one 3 to 51. … Jake Layman scored 12 points, hitting three 3s. … Minnesota got a season-high 72 points from reserves, marking the eighth time this season the Timberwolves’ bench exceeded 50 points. … The Wolves’ point total was their highest this season. … Nowell’s previous career high was 18 points.
Pelicans: Williamson’s recent struggles from the free throw line continued as he missed five of 11 foul shots. … Josh Hart grabbed 13 rebounds but committed six turnovers. … Jaxson Hayes and rookie Kira Lewis Jr. each scored 11 points, while Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Lonzo Ball each had 10 points. … The Pelicans have now lost five games in which they led by as many as 15 points.
Williamson, who said going into the All-Star break that he believed the Pelicans were on the cusp of winning more consistently, said the lopsided loss to the last-place Timberwolves did not change his outlook.
“I do feel like we’re almost there,” Williamson maintained. “I hate to say this, but this is the NBA, man. Losses like that happen every so often.
“Hopefully we’ll show the world why I said what I said,” Williamson added. “We’re all adults … You can’t sulk over a loss like this. We’ve just got to move on.”
Timberwolves: Host Portland on Saturday night in the first of two consecutive matchups against the Trail Blazers.
Pelicans: Host Cleveland Friday night in the second of three homes games in four nights.