Pelicans make final push in visit to Timberwolves

NBA

The New Orleans Pelicans just got some much-needed help from the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Now they’ll visit the resurgent Timberwolves (20-44) on Saturday night.

On Thursday the Pelicans won at Oklahoma City 109-95 and the Timberwolves defeated Golden State 126-114. Those results enabled New Orleans (28-35) to pull within three games of Golden State, which visits Houston on Saturday, for the final play-in spot with three games against the Warriors coming up.

But before the Pelicans host the Warriors in back-to-back games Monday and Tuesday, they have to contend with a Minnesota team that has won the first two meetings with the Pelicans by a combined 40 points and is riding a season-best four-game winning streak.

New Orleans’ margin for error is very small with nine games remaining, but it does control its play-in fate because of the head-to-head opportunities against Golden State.

“I think we just want to be able to have a chance to play in the playoffs,” said Pelicans forward Zion Williamson, who had 27 points, eight rebounds and six assists against the Thunder as New Orleans won for just the third time in its last nine games.

The Pelicans took control by closing the first half with a 19-3 run that produced a 60-43 halftime lead one night after a two-point loss at Denver.

“I think everybody was just kind of mentally tired,” Williamson said. “But in the first half, we all just woke up and we made a run.”

New Orleans made just 5-of-29 3-pointers but took advantage of a depleted Oklahoma City team.

“It was a bit of a slog, that’s for sure,” Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said.

The Wolves trailed the Warriors by two points at the end of the third quarter, but outscored them by 14 in the fourth quarter as rookie Anthony Edwards scored 18 of his 25 points. He scored 15 of his team’s first 17 points in the final period.

“We told him it was time for him to wake up and start playing,” Wolves coach Chris Finch said of Edwards. “He wasn’t in attack mode most of the night. He’s fearless. He has a swagger and a confidence and a belief that he is a great player and he’s going to continue to be a great player, and that’s through all the things that he doesn’t yet even know.

“You can’t teach that; you can’t coach that. He’s got grit and determination in a lot of ways.”

Ricky Rubio scored 26 points, making 5-of-8 3-pointers, and had six assists and six rebounds.

“We’re playing really good as a team, and we want to finish the season strong,” Rubio said.

Minnesota defeated visiting New Orleans 120-110 in the first meeting on Jan. 23 even though Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell did not play. Naz Reid scored 20 points to lead six Wolves in double figures.

The teams met again in New Orleans on March 11 in the first game after the All-Star break. The Pelicans led by 16 points in the first quarter, but Minnesota prevailed 135-105 to end a nine-game losing streak.

–Field Level Media

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