Pelicans Timberwolves Basketball

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson, right, drives to the basket past Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kyle Anderson (1) and center Naz Reid during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Craig Lassig) 

In college, weak-side blocks for Zion Williamson were commonplace. In the NBA, much less so.

Since being drafted No. 1 in 2019, Williamson has struggled to sustain the standout defensive effort he often flashed at Duke. But in the third quarter of Wednesday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Williamson reminded the viewing audience why he was once a highly regarded defensive prospect.

Williamson spiked Anthony Edwards’ layup attempt away from the hoop. That sprung the Pelicans on a transition opportunity, which ended with a Brandon Ingram midrange jumper.

Williamson (27 points) and Ingram (19 points) had excellent outings as the Pelicans earned an impressive 117-106 road win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on the second night of back-to-back games.

New Orleans (21-14) has won four straight games, and it has a 9-7 record on the road.

“I thought our defense set the tone," Pelicans coach Willie Green said. "We got stops. We rebounded the ball. We got off to the races. We did a decent job of keeping them off the foul line. It started with our ability to guard. ... This is a tough place to come in and get a win in. Off a back to back for us, it’s huge for us.”

The Timberwolves were 14-1 at Target Center before Wednesday’s game. The Pelicans built a three-point lead after the first quarter, which they opened up to double digits with an 8-0 run in the second quarter.

Ingram controlled the game early on. The Pelicans forward effortlessly glided into midrange jumpers. Ingram scored 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting and handed out five assists in the first half.

Herb Jones provided support by scoring 11 points in the first half. He converted 4 of 5 3-pointers that he attempted. It was his third consecutive game with multiple 3-point makes.

“Herb is one of our leaders," Green said. "When he plays well, it ignites the team. I thought he came out on both ends of the floor and was tremendous.”

The Pelicans didn’t let their foot off the gas in the second half. On New Orleans’ first possession in the third quarter, CJ McCollum drained a corner 3. He scored eight consecutive points for New Orleans out of halftime.

Williamson broke that streak with a putback layup with 9:22 remaining in the third. The rest of the quarter, Williamson took over by scoring 12 points.

The Pelicans shot 55.6% from the field and 46.2% from 3-point territory against the Timberwolves' No. 1-ranked defense. Minnesota shooting guard Anthony Edwards poured in 35 points, but his teammate Rudy Gobert was quiet, scoring only five points.

The Pelicans finished with 30 assists compared to 12 turnovers. They played one of their cleanest games of the season even though they arrived in Minnesota around 2 a.m. after beating the Brooklyn Nets in New Orleans on Tuesday. 

“We are trusting each other," Green said. "Guys are keeping the game simple. We are driving into the paint. When the defense collapses, we are kicking it out and getting easy shots.”

New Orleans finished its regular-season series against Minnesota with a 2-2 record.

The Pelicans face the Los Angeles Clippers at home on Friday before embarking on a five-game road trip.

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