Wolves pass Pels in play-in seeding after Gobert punches teammate
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Anthony Edwards had 26 points, 13 rebounds, four steals and four blocks to lead Minnesota past New Orleans 113-108 on Sunday, passing the Pelicans in the play-in tournament seeding after losing a pair of starters during the game to anger management problems.
Rudy Gobert threw a punch at teammate Kyle Anderson late in the second quarter and was sent home for the day, after ace defender Jaden McDaniels hurt his right hand by hitting a wall in frustration. But Karl-Anthony Towns had 12 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, Taurean Prince pitched in 18 points off the bench, and the Timberwolves rallied from a 14-point deficit.
“We’re going to have more adversity to deal with,” Towns said. “Always got to earn it.”
Gobert tweeted Sunday night: “Emotions got the best of me today. I should not have reacted the way i did regardless of what was said. I wanna apologize to the fans, the organisation and particularly to Kyle, who is someone that i truly love and respect as a teammate.”
Minnesota (42-40) finished in eighth place and will travel to Los Angeles to play the surging seventh-place Lakers (43-39) in the play-in tournament on Tuesday night. The winner gets the No. 7 seed and a first-round matchup against Memphis.
New Orleans (42-40) fell to ninth place and will host 10th-place Oklahoma City in an elimination game on Wednesday night. The winner will hit the road to face the Timberwolves-Lakers loser for the No. 8 seed and a first-round date with Denver.
The Timberwolves won two of three against the Pelicans this season to gain the tiebreaker in the wildest of the handful of Western Conference games on Sunday that carried meaning for seeding.
“I’m super proud of my teammates,” Edwards said.
Brandon Ingram outscored the Wolves 21-18 in the first quarter by himself and finished with 42 points and 12 rebounds for the Pelicans. C.J. McCollum added 23 points and Trey Murphy III scored 20 points.
“Small things that we can correct,” coach Willie Green said, “but this was a game that was gettable for us.”
With the Wolves up 106-104, Edwards blocked McCollum’s dunk attempt to send the crowd into a frenzy. Edwards tried a dangerous pass off the drive on the other end that was intercepted in the corner by McCollum, but Edwards managed to steal it right back after Mike Conley poked the ball out of McCollum’s control. Edwards attacked the rim for a layup, drew the foul and converted the three-point play to make it 109-104.
“Normally he’s, like, putting a lot of juice in the gym with his offense,” coach Chris Finch said. “Tonight I think it was his defense that lifted us up more than anything else.”
The Pelicans, who began the day with a chance to avoid the play-in tournament altogether and climb as high as the No. 5 seed, didn’t get the help they needed — including from themselves. Whether it was not boxing out on free throws or losing their offensive pace, the Pelicans simply faltered.
“Too many mistakes,” Green said. “When you get to this point in the season, everything counts.”
After a turnover by Edwards gave the Pelicans the ball trailing 111-108, McCollum missed a contested shot at the rim. Then Murphy, with Edwards smothering him on the wing, airballed an off-balance 3.
Towns got better matchups with Gobert gone and took full advantage. He made three 3-pointers in less than 1 1/2 minutes early in the fourth quarter, the first of which gave the Wolves their first lead of the game at 86-85. He flexed his muscles and howled at the crowd, and the Pelicans called timeout.
“The game was getting away, so I just wanted to put it on my shoulders and make the shots,” Towns said.
Ingram has been a big reason why the Pelicans finished so strong without Zion Williamson, with nine wins in their last 12 games for their first winning record in five years. Ingram scored the first nine points for the Pelicans and helped them build a 13-point lead in less than 10 minutes.
Pelicans: Jonas Valancuinas had 11 points and 18 rebounds. ... New Orleans went just 3 for 21 from 3-point range. ... Larry Nance Jr., who played 17 minutes, suffered an unspecified injury, Green said.
Timberwolves: Edwards had eight turnovers. ... Anderson had eight points, nine rebounds and four assists. ... Towns was 5 for 8 from 3-point range.
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