A Karl-Anthony Towns hook shot put the Timberwolves up 10 with 4 minutes, 22 seconds to play. They were again outplaying an opponent — this time New Orleans — in the fourth quarter and appeared to be well on their way to a fifth-straight victory.
But so much of that late-game dominance had been a product of Minnesota’s work on the defensive end, an area that’s seen major growth of late.
But then the defense disappeared at the most inopportune time. New Orleans scored on its final eight possessions of regulation to tie the game with 20 seconds to play.
Minnesota still had a shot to win the game at the end of regulation, but couldn’t generate a good look and D’Angelo Russell’s long 3-point attempt went off the backboard, off the rim and bounced away, and New Orleans went on to win the game 140-136 in the extra session at Target Center to snap the Wolves’ four-game losing streak.
“Disappointed in that we needed to win this game. This game was a lot like the Sacramento game where we were up and we didn’t close,” said Timberwolves coach Chris Finch, referencing the Timberwolves’ April 21 loss in which they led by 11 with six minutes to play. “We’ve got to close these games. I’m optimistic for the future, but there’s a lot of things we have to learn yet, and that is keep developing chemistry and being able to get stops on demand.”
In overtime, the Zion Williamson freight train rolled. In a contest featuring the last two No. 1 overall picks — Williamson and Anthony Edwards — neither disappointed, but Williamson put his stamp on the game when it mattered most.
The 6-foot-8 bruising forward drove to the rim at will, scoring 15 points between the fourth quarter and overtime. For the game, Williamson finished with 37 points — on 14 for 17 shooting — to go with nine rebounds and eight assists.
“He’s a helluva player,” Finch said. “He gets downhill and creates a lot of contact. Some of it I thought we did a good job of taking the contact and staying vertical. Obviously, had a great game, had no answer for him.”
Lonzo Ball was nearly as good, scoring 33 points — including eight triples — along with 11 rebounds and eight dimes.
The Pelicans (29-35) — who are fighting to stay alive in the Western Conference playoff race — shot 51 percent from the field and 39 percent from deep. The only reprieve for Minnesota’s defense came whenever Brandon Ingram would clank a contested mid-range jumper.
The Timberwolves (20-45) have struggled to defend without fouling at various times all season. Those struggles were on full display again Saturday. The Pelicans got to the free-throw line a whopping 46 times.
he Wolves scored at will for much of the night, with Anthony Edwards leading the charge with 29 points, nine rebounds and six assists, but Minnesota’s offense couldn’t do enough late to save its faltering defense.
“A lot of holding (the ball). We missed some open shots and we didn’t get enough ball movement. Not getting into our stuff quick enough, really, and then I didn’t think we played strong enough when we had opportunities to finish,” Finch said. “I think we just needed to trust our ball movement. Even if we run iso plays, when you draw two on the ball, move, get off of it and move it again. We just didn’t have enough ball or body movement, and that’s on me. I’ve got to call better plays to get that triggered.”