Timberwolves’ six-game winning streak snapped in New Orleans

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There have been many times already this season where Minnesota has taken down good teams who were playing sans a star.

New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (14) slam dunks in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves in New Orleans, Monday, Dec. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Including a couple previous matchups against New Orleans in which the Pelicans did not have Zion Williamson.

The roles were reversed Monday, as New Orleans was at full strength and Minnesota did not have Anthony Edwards, who missed his third game out of the team’s last four contests with a hip pointer.

And the end result was a 121-107 Timberwolves loss in New Orleans.

Minnesota struggled to impose its will at any point in the night as the Pelicans felt like the team in control from start to finish.

Jaden McDaniels returned from a three-week absence with an ankle sprain and played 27 minutes, but he struggled to find a rhythm on either end. He finished with 12 points and wasn’t his usual strong defensive self.

Rudy Gobert dealt with foul trouble for much of the evening and never imposed his will on either end.

Karl-Anthony Towns started the game strong, but somewhat disappeared when New Orleans moved Herb Jones — the team’s defensive ace — onto Towns. The Wolves’ big man finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out. Towns scored two points in the second half.

Minnesota (17-5) entered the night on a six-game winning streak, with four of those wins coming against cellar dwellers. New Orleans (13-11), meanwhile, was fresh off a drubbing at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers in the in-season tournament semifinals played on a national stage.

Williamson’s physical fitness was a topic of national conversation for the last few days after a pour performance in that loss to the Lakers. Williamson responded Monday with 36 points on 13 for 17 shooting.

Motivation can be as clear of a factor in winning as health over the course of an 82-game NBA season.

This was the first of a difficult 16-game stretch — all against above-.500 teams — for Minnesota, with 11 of those contests coming on the road. One thing the Wolves have yet to do this season is beat a healthy, top-tier team on the road. That remains true after Monday’s bout.

They have plenty of chances to check that box, though, over the next month, including Thursday in Dallas.

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