NEW ORLEANS — Karl-Anthony Towns broke from a sideline huddle knowing his next shot likely would decide whether the Minnesota Timberwolves escaped New Orleans with a comeback victory or lost their second straight.
High-scoring Minnesota guard Anthony Edwards had fouled out with 10 seconds left, the Pelicans led by a point, and Wolves coach Chris Finch drew up a play for his dynamic forward.
“You play the whole game to hopefully have an opportunity to be in that situation; I looked at it as the funest part of the night,” Towns said. “This game’s supposed to be fun and I had a lot of fun in that situation.”
Towns capped a 29-point, nine-assist performance with a running floater off the glass with 5 seconds left, and Minnesota overcame a 14-point deficit in the final 7:32 to beat New Orleans 121-120 on Saturday night.
Edwards scored 23 points before fouling out while guarding Brandon Ingram along the perimeter. But Ingram missed one of his two free throws, allowing Towns to put Minnesota in front from close range.
The Pelicans still had a shot to win it as time ran out, but Ingram, who had a game-high-30 points, missed a mid-range jumper. That capped a difficult closing stretch for the New Orleans star, who made just one shot and turned the ball over twice in the fourth quarter.
“Our execution went away a little bit,” Ingram said. “I don’t think I did a good job of kind of settling us down, getting into plays and trying to get the right execution down the stretch.”
New Orleans led 108-94 with 8:04 left after Matt Ryan’s third 3 of the game, but momentum turned quickly when Towns drew Herb Jones’ fifth foul. That started a 7-0 Minnesota run that included a breakaway layup and transition 3 by Pelican Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
“It was a tough game for us. We were behind the score the whole game,” Minnesota center Rudy Gobert said, adding that “the poise that we showed the whole game” separates this season’s edition of the Wolves from that of a year ago.
Added Towns, “We definitely showed heart, our mental fortitude and the toughness our team has to find a way to win even when things are not going right.”
Towns did not miss any of his three field goals or five foul shots in the fourth quarter, when he scored 12, including a 3 that gave Minnesota its first lead of the second half at 119-117.
“Tonight I thought was one of the best games I’ve watched him play,” Gobert said. “He’s a very smart player, obviously, a very unique player. When he does that he’s an incredible weapon for us.”
Rudy Gobert had 17 points and 11 rebounds for the T-Wolves. Jaden McDaniels added 12 points.
Jonas Valanciunas had 26 points and 11 rebounds for the Pelicans. Jones had 13 points and a career-high eight assists to go with two steals and two blocks, but fouled out in the final minute.
New Orleans was playing without start power forward Zion Williamson, who was being rested on what was the second of three games in four nights. The Pelicans also were without CJ McCollum for a seventh straight game as the high-scoring veteran guard continue to recover from a partially collapsed lung.
Still, they led for most of the game and by as many as 15 points.
New Orleans started 7 of 10 from from deep and led 43-28 when Daniels hit from deep on the left wing.
Minnesota closed the gap when Towns got in rhythm, scoring 10 points in just more than four minutes on a couple mid-range fades, a short hook and a pair of layups.
Gobert’s free throws cut New Orleans lead to 64-59 at halftime.
Timberwolves: Host New York on Monday.
Pelicans: Host Sacramento on Monday.
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