Lonzo Ball drives past Anthony Edwards

Panzura postgame wrap: Pelicans 140, Timberwolves 136 (OT)

Pelicans (29-35), Timberwolves (20-45)
by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

A near-miraculous fourth-quarter comeback kept New Orleans’ hopes alive Saturday. In overtime, the Pelicans finished off a victory that was as dramatic as it was critical.

After New Orleans overcame a 10-point deficit in the final 3:31 of the fourth period to force an extra five minutes, Zion Williamson used some aggressive drives to give the visitors control on the scoreboard. He scored seven of the team’s 17 overtime points.

At the end of regulation, Willy Hernangomez converted one of the biggest baskets of the season by New Orleans, a putback that tied it at 123 with 21 seconds remaining. Minnesota guard D’Angelo Russell then fired a difficult three-point attempt at the buzzer that banged off the backboard before rolling off the rim.

New Orleans will next host Golden State in a Monday/Tuesday back-to-back, trailing the Warriors (32-32) by three games in the standings for the final Western Conference play-in spot.

IT WAS OVER WHEN…

Lonzo Ball sank one free throw with 48 seconds left in OT, giving New Orleans a seven-point lead. Hernangomez picked off a pass by Ricky Rubio on the ensuing play, sealing the victory for the Pelicans. Ball tacked on two more free throws to make it 138-129 at 0:32.

“Just keep fighting, keeping composure and getting (defensive) stops,” Ball said on postgame radio of how the Pelicans attacked the final minutes of the fourth quarter mentally. “(In overtime) we just rode on Zion’s back and he carried us to the finish line.”

PELICANS PLAYER OF THE GAME

Ball authored a career night offensively in scoring and three-point shooting. The fourth-year pro, who is seeking the first postseason appearance of his NBA career, registered a career-best 33 points and matched his most threes made in a game by sinking eight. He also knocked down eight threes from beyond the arc April 4 at Houston.

BY THE NUMBERS

14/36: New Orleans three-point shooting. The Pelicans made double-digit threes for the third time in the last four games and fifth time in the last seven. Prior to those seven games, New Orleans went seven consecutive games without making 10 or more.

3: Minnesota frontcourt players who fouled out Saturday, partly due to having to figure out how to contain Williamson around the basket. “I mean, Zion’s a beast,” Ball said of the unusual development. “He’s one of the best players in the league already at 20 years old. One guy can’t stop him. So I’m not surprised at all. They threw a bunch of different bodies at him, but he went through all of them.”

17: Seasons since New Orleans swept Golden State in a season series. The 2003-04 Hornets, who were members of the Eastern Conference back then, swept the Warriors 2-0 that season. New Orleans may need a 3-0 sweep of Golden State this month to surpass the Dubs after 72 games.

REVISITING THREE KEYS TO VICTORY PRESENTED BY FANDUEL

NO ROLE PLAYERS ROLLING

For the first time in three meetings this season, none of Minnesota’s lesser-known players had a big night, with the bulk of the scoring Saturday coming from primary weapons Anthony Edwards, D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns.

PROTECT THE BALL

This ended up being an area New Orleans again had to try to overcome vs. Minnesota. The Pelicans averaged 19.5 turnovers in the two losses to the Wolves and coughed up 21 more Saturday.

BILLY BALL

Filling for Steven Adams at starting center, Willy Hernangomez was a non-factor in the first half due to foul trouble, but he came up with 12 second-half points, including the game-saving bucket to force a deadlock in the final 30 seconds of regulation. That putback was one of six offensive rebounds during his double-double outing of 12 points and 12 total boards.

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