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Zion Williamson Drops 23 Points as Pelicans Beat D'Angelo Russell, Timberwolves

Megan ArmstrongSenior Analyst IMarch 8, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS, MN -  MARCH 8: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans drives to the basket against the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 8, 2020 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
David Sherman/Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans came out on top in their second matchup with the Minnesota Timberwolves in five days.  

The Pelicans defeated the Timberwolves 120-107 at the Target Center in Minnesota on Sunday afternoon. The Wolves had upset New Orleans 139-134 at the Smoothie King Center last Tuesday.

New Orleans Pelicans @PelicansNBA

Starting off our four-game road trip with a dub 💪 #WontBowDown https://t.co/PrYRZUDpp9

The Pelicans appeared to have revenge on their minds early, building a 17-point lead in the first quarter. Minnesota went on a 16-3 run to cut New Orleans' lead to 36-33 early in the second quarter, but that momentum was completely evaporated by the third quarter as New Orleans took a 98-84 advantage into the fourth quarter. The Pelicans kept their foot on the gas from there.

When Minnesota defeated New Orleans, the T-Wolves saw starting guards D'Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley combine for 51 points, while the bench outscored Pels reserves 48-22. This time around, All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday led a cohesive offensive effort for New Orleans with a season-high 37 points—his fourth 30-point outing of the season. 

NBA @NBA

❗️ Jrue season-high 37 ❗️ @Jrue_Holiday11 posts 37 PTS, 9 REB, 8 AST as the @PelicansNBA defeat MIN. https://t.co/sG4qmeXxzc

The 29-year-old veteran came up two assists and one rebound shy of his first career 30-point triple-double, per Pelicans PR.

Andrew Lopez @_Andrew_Lopez

Jrue Holiday on #TripDub watch with 35 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists. He's only had 4 triple doubles in his career (regular season) and his most recent was in the loss to Minnesota last week.

Holiday was also pivotal to stifling the T-Wolves' backcourt, which plays a larger role in Minnesota's success because the team remains without center Karl-Anthony Towns as he continues to nurse a fractured wrist suffered prior to February's All-Star break.

Holiday's stellar day helped compensate for New Orleans' being without rookie guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker (fractured wrist) and veteran guard JJ Redick (hamstring).

It is pivotal for the 28-36 Pelicans to beat inferior opponents like the 19-44 Timberwolves if they are going to catch the 32-32 Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

        

Notable Performances

NO G Jrue Holiday: 37 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, 1 steal, 1 block

NO F Zion Williamson: 23 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block

NO F Brandon Ingram: 15 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal

NO G Lonzo Ball: 18 points, 5 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals

MIN G Malik Beasley: 21 points, 9 rebounds, 1 steal

MIN G D'Angelo Russell: 19 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 1 block

MIN F James Johnson: 15 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block

Zion Williamson Notches 14th 20-Point Game Since Jan. 31 While Jrue Holiday Soars

Williamson was the first teenager in NBA history to string together 13 straight games with at least 20 points scored. That streak was snapped Friday when he bucketed 17 points in the Pelicans' 110-104 victory over the Miami Heat.

The rookie top overall pick started a new such streak and joined Michael Jordan in the league's history books against the Timberwolves:

Andrew Lopez @_Andrew_Lopez

Per @ESPNStatsInfo: Zion Williamson is the first player with 16 20-point games in his first 20 career games since Michael Jordan in 1984-85. Zion is playing his 19th career game today.

Williamson, as has already become the norm, did so in style:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Zo to Zion TWICE in one minute 🔥 https://t.co/uiIrIYsPuO

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

ZION BROUGHT OUT THE WINDMILL 😤 https://t.co/fQFkfkMesP

However, the 19-year-old phenom did this as a complementary player.

Meanwhile, Holiday shot 65 percent from the field, including 3-of-8 from three, to lead all scorers:

FOXSports NewOrleans @FOXSportsNOLA

The franchise leader in made triples adds another to his tally. #WontBowDown https://t.co/qbd7Faa1yc

Will Guillory @WillGuillory

Jrue Holiday becomes the third player in franchise history to go for at least 37 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists in a single game. The others? DeMarcus Cousins Tyreke Evans

Will Guillory @WillGuillory

This is one of the best games Jrue has ever played in a Pelicans uniform

And it could not have come at a better time for the Pelicans:

Will Guillory @WillGuillory

If Sacramento loses to Toronto tonight, they'll be tied with the Pelicans for the No. 9 seed at 28-36. The Pelicans' next game? At Sacramento on Wednesday night.

Holiday discussed his season-best performance as well as his team's playoff push with Jennifer Hale after the game:

FOXSports NewOrleans @FOXSportsNOLA

After a @PelicansNBA win @Jrue_Holiday11 talks with @JenHale504 about this team's push for the playoffs. #WontBowDown https://t.co/ITtNwbj6FS

What happened against the T-Wolves is the best possible situation for New Orleans moving forward: Williamson continuing to grow into the franchise's face while the likes of Holiday, Ball and Ingram take pressure away from him.

New Orleans Pelicans @PelicansNBA

6️⃣0️⃣ combined points right here https://t.co/hZf4dsjhty

Sunday's collective effort is exactly what the Pelicans had in mind when constructing this roster.

Karl-Anthony Towns' Absence Is Glaring in Minnesota

As Holiday erupted for 37 points and Williamson continued compiling his highlight reel, it became clear what the Timberwolves were lacking against the Pelicans. 

A star.

Towns has been the Timberwolves' most consistent player since the franchise drafted him first overall in 2015. The 24-year-old appeared in all 82 regular-season games in each of his first three professional campaigns before playing in an ever so slightly fewer 77 games last season.

The Kentucky product's drop-off to 35 games so far this season is glaring. 

The Pelicans out-rebounded the Towns-less Timberwolves 54-42 while also outscoring them in the paint 66-58. Minnesota's problems only worsened away from the rim, going 8-of-33 from deep.

Russell, whom the T-Wolves traded to acquire from Golden State prior to last month's deadline, went 0-of-7 from three.

While Minnesota is lacking a game-changing star presence without Towns on the court, the franchise brought Russell in to address its long-standing issue of not having a reliable star paired with Towns.

It is true that Minnesota just beat New Orleans without Towns less than a week ago. It is also true that this game proved that model is not sustainable.

If the T-Wolves determine that Towns can return this season without risking longer-term damage, the lone silver lining in Minnesota from 2019-20 will be evaluating whether the Russell-Towns duo can be the answer.

What's Next? 

The Timberwolves next play the Rockets in Houston on Tuesday night, and the Pelicans will continue their four-game road trip in Sacramento on Wednesday night.

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