Butler’s Late Bucket Lifts Timberwolves Over Pelicans 104-98

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Jimmy Butler insisted he wasn’t merely trying to earn foul shots when he faked Pelicans guard E’Twaun Moore into the air, 20 feet from the basket, with the score tied in the final minute.

“I was trying to get a bucket,” Butler said, agreeing that it wasn’t an easy shot with the 6-foot-4 Moore coming down on him as he put up his jumper. “It’s crazy to me, though, because I make the hard ones, but I cannot make wide-open jump shots to save my life right now.”

Butler can worry about that later. His go-ahead shot as he was fouled with 34 seconds left highlighted a 23-point performance and lifted the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 104-98 victory over New Orleans on Wednesday night.

Andrew Wiggins scored 18 points and stole the ball from Jrue Holiday with 24 seconds left to help seal the victory for Minnesota, which lost a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter before winning its third straight. Perhaps the most hopeful sign for Minnesota, which is trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004, is that the Wolves won despite 22 turnovers and the fact that Karl-Anthony Towns, limited by foul trouble, scored only two points.

“It’s a different feeling. We’ve got a different confidence level,” Towns said, his constant smile, up-beat tone and subtle dance steps while grabbing grub from a buffet table in the locker room indicating how pleased he is to be on a team that can win when he has a rough game.

“I’ll tell you one thing. It’s damn good to leave with a W,” Towns said. “Statistics don’t matter. It’s about making sure the team’s successful.”

DeMarcus Cousins had 35 points and nine rebounds, and the Pelicans tied it at 96 when Cousins bounced a pass to Anthony Davis cutting down the lane for a two-handed dunk.

Davis had 24 points and 10 rebounds, and Holiday added 14 points for New Orleans, which has lost two straight.

“We’re still a team figuring each other out and figuring out what’s best for us and what’s the best spots to put guys in,” Cousins said. “But I’m extremely confident in this team.”

New Orleans trailed 92-80 before Cousins and Tony Allen each scored six points during a 14-4 run to tie it with 2:22 to go.

That comeback bid was “definitely a sign that shows me this is a team that doesn’t stop fighting. That’s a plus for any team,” Cousins said. “We just need to fix a lot of minor things.”

Taj Gibson had 11 points and 12 rebounds to help the Timberwolves outrebound the Pelicans 47-38. Gorgui Dieng and Nemanja Bjelica scored 12 points apiece as Minnesota shot 49.4 percent (41 of 83).

TIP INS

Timberwolves: Towns had to sit with three fouls with 8:49 left in the second quarter after he caught Cousins across the face with his left hand. He didn’t score his first points until his put-back dunk with less than five minutes left. The third-year pro out of Kentucky has never been shut out. … Jamal Crawford, who had 11 points, closed out the first quarter by banking in a 39-foot shot from the mid-court circle. … The Timberwolves led for most of the first half, shooting 60.5 percent (26 of 43) and going up by as many as 12 points when Butler’s dunk made it 60-48.

Pelicans: Allen had a season-high 10 points in 19 minutes off the bench. … The Pelicans fell to 1-3 at home after the second loss of a three-game home stand. … Cousins, who entered the game with 36 turnovers, had six in the first half and finished with eight of New Orleans’ 19 total turnovers.

OFF TARGET

Cousins tied a career high with five 3-pointers, but missed his last three. The rest of the Pelicans were 3 of 21 combined from deep.

Of the Pelicans’ 31 3s, coach Alvin Gentry said, “28 of them were really good looks and shots that you have to knock down.”

QUOTABLE

“Thibs is never happy. Come on now. Don’t write that. That’s fake news,” Towns said when asked whether coach Tom Thibodeau would be happy after two straight close road wins improved his club to 5-3. But Thibodeau could be seen smiling as Towns chatted with him near the locker room exit shortly afterward.

UP NEXT

Timberwolves: Play the first of back-to-back home games against Dallas on Saturday night

Pelicans: Begin a four-game trip at Dallas on Friday night.

(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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