Zion Williamson scored a season-high 36 points, CJ McCollum added nine of his 23 points in the fourth quarter on three timely 3-pointers, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the NBA-leading Minnesota Timberwolves 121-107 on Monday night.
The game was a character test for the Pelicans, coming off their 133-89 drubbing at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers in the semifinals of the NBA In-Season Tournament in Las Vegas on Thursday night.
Williamson was the object of ridicule by national NBA analysts after he scored 13 points on eight shots and finished with just three rebounds against the Lakers. Some said he appeared out of shape and others said he failed to raise his intensity level in the face of a LeBron James-led squad that appeared far more motivated.
Against the T-Wolves, Williamson repeatedly scored on forceful drives to the basket, often finishing high off the glass to beat the long reach of Minnesota center Rudy Gobert.
Williamson’s highlights included a double-pump floater off the glass from left of the lane as he was fouled by Jaden McDaniels to make it 109-94 with 4:51 left. It was his third game this season with more than 30 points.
The Wolves played without leading scorer Anthony Edwards, who left Friday night’s win at Memphis with a right hip pointer.
Karl-Anthony Towns led the Timberwolves with 17 points and 12 rebounds, but he fouled out with 2:35 left and his team trailing by 14. Mike Conley and Naz Reid each scored 17 points for Minnesota, which had won nine of its previous 10 games.
Brandon Ingram scored 20 points and Jonas Valanciunas had 14 points and 13 rebounds for New Orleans, which won for the first time in three games against Minnesota this season.
It took Minnesota nearly four minutes to make its first basket of the fourth quarter. It came on Conley’s 3, which trimmed New Orleans’ lead to 99-89.
Minnesota briefly got as close as 99-91 before Williamson hit a driving layup and Ingram hit a turnaround as he was fouled to make it 104-91. The Wolves didn’t threaten after that.
Williamson, Ingram and McCollum each had at least 10 points in the first half, and Ingram hit a 31-foot bank shot at the halftime horn to give New Orleans a 59-52 lead.
Minnesota’s Jordan McLaughlin hit a half-court swish at the third-quarter horn.
Timberwolves: Visit Dallas on Thursday night.
Pelicans: Visit Washington on Wednesday night.
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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