Beasley, Russell lead Timberwolves past Pelicans, 139-134

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Malik Beasley scored 28 points, D’Angelo Russell scored 14 of his 23 points in the second half, and the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the New Orleans Pelicans 139-134 on Tuesday night.

Zion Williamson scored 25 points and Jrue Holiday had 27 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds for New Orleans, which dropped its second straight at home and fell four games behind Memphis for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot.

“Hopefully, this is a game that we understand and we learn from because we can’t afford not to be locked in,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “We’re in a situation where we’re trying to win basketball games to stay relevant.

“You’ve got to be able to guard. You can’t just run up and down, try to outscore everyone.”

The Pelicans need to pile up wins in the season’s final weeks to reach the playoffs. A matchup with a Minnesota team that came in with two victories in its past 22 games was a clear opportunity to win for the seventh time in 10 games.

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Malik Beasley dribbles past New Orleans Pelicans forward Derrick Favors. PHOTO: AP

Instead, New Orleans hurt itself by turning the ball over 15 times, missing 25 of 39 three-point attempts, missing 11 of 27 free throws and repeatedly breaking down defensively, particularly along the perimeter.

“It was just a lack of communication, not helping teammates,” Williamson said. “This is one of those games we needed and didn’t get, so it’s a tough loss.”

But Williamson did not sound too discouraged by the Pelicans’ small and shrinking margin for error over their final 21 games.

“It’s a situation you want to be put in. I think that brings the greatness out in everybody,” Williamson said. “It’s one of those things where it’s like, that adversity is in front of you. What are you going to do about it?”

Beasley made 11 of 13 shots, including four threes on five attempts. James Johnson scored 19 points, former LSU player Naz Reid had 13 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks, and Juancho Hernangomez scored 16 for Minnesota, which shot 55.7 per cent overall and went 17 of 20 from the foul line.

“We all came together as one. We all did our jobs and we paid our rent for the day and it got us the win,” said Reid, who had to defend fellow rookie Williamson much of the game. “Winning the day, that’s something that we’re big on and I’m trying to take control of that.”

The game was tied at 122 after Holiday’s layup with 6:25 to go. New Orleans then went scoreless while missing five shots during a span of more than two minutes as the Wolves scored seven straight, starting with Russell’s three.

With three minutes left, Holiday’s underthrown long pass for Williamson resulted in a turnover and easy dunk for Hernangomez on the other end to make it 133-124. The Pelicans couldn’t recover, missing seven more shots after that.

“It was a major team win,” Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders said, noting the Pelicans have “a lot of talent over there that can really come at you in waves. … So I’m really proud of what our group was able to do.”