MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Karl-Anthony Towns scored 15 of his 25 points for Minnesota in the first quarter, before fouling out in frustration and being forced to watch the Timberwolves hang on for a 96-89 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday night.
Towns liked what he saw from the undefeated Timberwolves, who leaned on their defense and forced 30 turnovers by the Pelicans to set a franchise record for Minnesota's opponents and tie the all-time mark for New Orleans.
“We’ve got to continue to build this culture and this identity every game, regardless of the result,” said Towns, who went to the bench with 6:36 left.
Brandon Ingram scored 30 points — with seven turnovers — and center Jonas Valanciunas had his best game with his new team with 20 points and 17 rebounds.
“We know what the problem is, and I’m part of it,” Ingram said. “Just trying to value the basketball.”
The Zion Williamson-less and winless Pelicans shot just 9 for 40 from 3-point range. Nickeil Alexander-Walker was 2 for 13 from deep and 6 for 24 overall. He had 14 rebounds and 14 points.
“When we take care of the basketball, we get quality shots,” coach Willie Green said.
The two teams play here again on Monday.
Anthony Edwards had 14 of his 19 points in the first half for the Timberwolves, and D'Angelo Russell snapped out of his slumber down the stretch with a pair of critical 3-pointers.
“Good, bad, ugly, we got it done,” Russell said.
After a fadeaway by Ingram cut the Minnesota lead to four points and Towns' backup Naz Reid airballed a 3, Alexander-Walked missed his heave from behind the arc. Then Russell pulled up and fired off a top-of-the-key rainbow with 25 seconds that left banked and rimmed in for a 94-87 lead.
Russell, who had 22 points in the opener, went 5 for 14 from the floor and finished with 12 points and only three assists.
With the Pelicans again badly missing their franchise player Williamson, who's recovering from surgery on a broken right foot, they stumbled through the first half while falling behind by 17 points late in the second quarter.
Towns picked up his fourth foul halfway through the third quarter as the Pelicans hustled and muscled their way back in the game. The rest of the Timberwolves went 3 for 15 in that period.
Valanciunas sank a pair of free throws to cap a 10-0 run and tie the game at 63-all, but they were never able to take the lead after that, another box checked for Minnesota's improving defense.
Jarred Vanderbilt stole a pass from Garrett Temple with one hand at the top of the key and started a fast break — the Timberwolves had a 21-7 edge in transition points — the other way that Naz Reid finished with a finger roll at the horn for a 69-67 edge.
Towns backed down Valancuinas and drew a foul for a three-point play with 8:47 left and an 80-68 lead, but he tried to bull his way past Trey Murphy III a few minutes later and was this time called for the charge. Towns picked up a technical — and his sixth foul — for storming off the court and knocking over a chair, startling a fan in the expensive seats in the process.
“I thought we did a really, really good job,” Towns said. “For me, my hope is not to be putting my teammates in that kind of position again.”
Williamson’s absence negated what would’ve been consecutive matchups between the first overall pick in both the 2019 and 2020 drafts. Williamson has played in only 85 of 147 games because of injuries. Edwards has yet to miss a game.
Pelicans: Rookie Herbert Jones, the team's second-round draft pick, started again at small forward for Josh Hart (right quadriceps), who was hurt in the opener on Wednesday and missed his second straight game. Jones had eight of New Orleans' 61 rebounds and had two points in 29 minutes.
“He has a toughness about him that is going to take him a long way with our team,” Green said.
Timberwolves: Patrick Beverley made his debut after serving a one-game suspension for the opener and had five points and six assists in 22 minutes. He went 1 for 5 from 3-point range.
The Pelicans stay in Minnesota for the game on Monday, before returning to New Orleans to host Atlanta on Wednesday.
The Timberwolves, following the rematch with the Pelicans, play at defending NBA champion Milwaukee on Wednesday, their only road contest in their first eight games.
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