Timberwolves fall to Pelicans on late Brandon Ingram 3-pointer, 128-125

By Chris Hine

NEW ORLEANS — The night was set up for another Timberwolves victory. Patrick Beverley returned from a two-game absence and made the Wolves' starting lineup complete again, a lineup that was 9-2 when it played together.

The Wolves were also playing another Western Conference team below them in the standings, New Orleans, a team it handled with ease in the Smoothie King Center in November.

The night didn't go as planned.

The Wolves lacked the defensive focus that has been consistent most of the season in a 128-125 loss to the Pelicans. The loss snapped their four-game win streak and caused them to finish below .500 (20-21) at the halfway mark of the season.

New Orleans shot 55% for the night as Brandon Ingram led the Pelicans with 33. Karl-Anthony Towns had 26 while Anthony Edwards had 28 for the Wolves. Edwards and Ingram engaged in a shooting duel down the stretch, with Ingram getting the last word. Ingram buried a 3 from the top of the key to win it for New Orleans with 0.3 seconds remaining to cap a thrilling fourth.

The Wolves trailed much of the second half until Edwards hit a jumper from the paint to put them ahead 112-111 with 3 minutes, 32 seconds to play. New Orleans would score six straight before and another Edwards 3 pulled the Wolves within two before Ingram converted a four-point play and then two more 3s to offset a pair of 3s from Edwards for a 124-118 New Orleans lead. The Wolves scored the next five to give themselves a chance and had that chance to tie or take that lead after Devonte' Graham hit just one of two free throws to make the score 125-123 with 9.2 seconds left.

D'Angelo Russell hit a runner in the lane to tie the score with 3.6 seconds left before Ingram's heroics.

Even with Beverley back after a two-game absence the Wolves' defense looked as sluggish early as it has been in a while. New Orleans shot 52% and hit 5 of 12 3-pointers in the first while the Wolves capitalized on 14 free-throw attempts in the quarter. The Wolves also shot 11 of 18 from the field but could never build a lead larger than three.

The worst part of the quarter for the Wolves came with 1 minute, 55 seconds remaining. On a loose ball, Wolves guard Jaylen Nowell and Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado collided, with Nowell landed awkwardly and spraining his left ankle. He left the game for the night.

The Wolves took a 36-35 after one with Russell scoring 10 in the quarter.

One of the biggest issues the Wolves had defensively Tuesday was in transition. New Orleans got out for 20 fast-break points in the first half. The Pelicans, one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the league, also kept the Wolves, one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the league, from getting their share of second-chance points. They had just two in the first half. The Wolves still hit 48% of their shots but trailed New Orleans at the break because of their lack of transition defense. New Orleans shot 57% in the half and led 65-59 at halftime, the biggest lead for any team up to that point.

They didn't exactly come out of the locker room inspired. New Orleans scored eight of the first nine points in the quarter to take a 13-point lead and left the Wolves with more frustrated body language. Later in the quarter, Towns picked up a technical against Jonas Valanciunas, something that seems to happen every other time Towns tangles with Valanciunas.

But the Wolves didn't roll over and start stringing together some much-needed stops on defense. A 12-4 burst helped the Wolves pull within two before Ingram hit a pair of 3s to put New Orleans back up eight. That would be the deficit for the Wolves, 97-89, headed into the fourth.

They kept chipping away at the lead entering the fourth until they took it, but Ingram didn't let them keep it.

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