New Orleans Pelicans use late spurt to bury Minnesota Timberwolves

By Peter Finney Jr., The Sports Xchange   |   March 20, 2017 at 12:27 AM
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NEW ORLEANS -- All savory gumbos start with what south Louisiana chefs call the "trinity" -- a sauteed roux of onions, bell pepper and celery -- and, like most recipes, good results take time.

After the New Orleans Pelicans lost six of their first eight games trying to blend in the trinity of Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Jrue Holiday, the collaboration finally seems to have caught fire.

The Pelicans whipped the Minnesota Timberwolves 123-109 on Sunday at the Smoothie King Center for their fourth victory in the last five games. In four of the past five games, New Orleans (29-41) scored at least 120 points.

More important, Davis, Cousins and Holiday performed as seamlessly as they have since Cousins came to New Orleans in the blockbuster trade with Sacramento after the All-Star break.

Davis scored 28 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and keyed a decisive, 12-0 fourth-quarter run with a layup and two assists. Cousins scored 15 points and pulled down 11 boards to go with four assists, showing the kind of passing ability that is rare for a big man. Holiday had 21 points and seven assists.

In a 40-point third quarter in which the Pelicans turned a six-point halftime deficit into an 88-84 lead, Davis and Holiday scored 10 points each and Cousins added seven.

"It was good -- the top three scorers on the team that we're going to need," Davis said. "Hopefully, all three of us can score throughout the game, every game. Sometimes it doesn't go like that, but that goes back to being a leader and getting other guys involved as well. When all three of us are playing like that, we're tough to beat."

Holiday said, "I think we've said this about a million times. It's going to take time, and obviously we don't have a lot of time this season, but it's just going to take time to get to know each other better -- somebody (Cousins) who's dominant in the paint and can also step out and shoot a three, who can push it on the break and facilitate as well."

The Pelicans scored 75 second-half points -- the second-most allowed by Minnesota this season. They shot 61.2 percent (30 of 49) from the field and made 9 of 20 (45 percent) from 3-point range in the second half. They had 20 fastbreak points in the last two quarters.

"The game is in the balance, you've got a chance to win in the fourth, and you let go of the rope and that's what happens," said Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau, whose team lost for the fourth time in five games. "So there's not much fight. If the game is in the balance, you've got to make tough plays. We didn't do it. ... It's not going to change by itself. We've got to get it right."

Jordan Crawford added 22 points off the bench for the Pelicans.

"Everybody has been playing together, nobody has really been trying to be the hero," said Crawford, who made 4 of 7 from long range, providing the Pelicans with the perimeter shooting they have been missing most of the season. "Everybody is happy for each other, so (we're) just continuing to play together."

The Pelicans led just 102-99 with 6:28 left after Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns slammed home a dunk. But over the next 3:01, New Orleans scored 12 straight to extend the lead to 114-99 with 3:12 left. Towns led all scorers with 33 points and Andrew Wiggins added 25, but Minnesota (28-41) lost for the fourth time in five games.

New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said he can see his team starting to learn to play together.

"We are getting contributions from everywhere," Gentry said. "It's not like we have to depend on one or two guys. I think everybody is stepping up. We've got some firepower off the bench. I thought our offense was really good in the third quarter. We moved the basketball. We did a good job. Obviously 40 points in a quarter is pretty good. I just thought overall we played well."

NOTES: The Timberwolves were on the verge of signing free agent F Omri Casspi, who was part of the trade that brought F/C DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans. Casspi broke his thumb in his first game with the Pelicans on Feb. 23. The Pelicans expected Casspi to miss six weeks with the injury, prompting them to waive Casspi to fill a depleted roster. Coincidentally, Casspi is exactly what the Pelicans need -- an outside shooter -- and now he appears headed to Minnesota. "We're talking to him and hopefully we'll know shortly," said Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau. Asked if he had dinner with Casspi on Saturday night, Thibodeau said, "It's possible. We had a meeting." ... The Pelicans signed former Duke G Quinn Cook, the MVP of the NBA Development League All-Star Game, to a 10-day contract. He played one scoreless minute. ... New Orleans' Tim Frazier started at point guard, his 24th start of the season. He had three points and eight assists.

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