MINNEAPOLIS — New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry let out a sigh of relief after being asked the first question in his postgame news conference. Gentry and the Pelicans could finally enjoy discussing a game.
Brandon Ingram scored 34 points and New Orleans snapped its 13-game losing streak with a 107-99 win against the short-handed Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.
Jrue Holiday had 18 points and Lonzo Ball added 10 points, six rebounds and six assists off the bench for the Pelicans, who were coming off a 108-101 overtime loss at home to Brooklyn a night earlier.
“We were tired, but I thought we just kind of grinded it out,” Gentry said. “We talked about playing blue-collar desperate. We had to be the most desperate team, not just in this game tonight, but the most desperate team in the league.”
Playing without leading scorer and rebounder Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota lost its seventh straight game after shooting 38% from the field. Andrew Wiggins led the Timberwolves with 27 points.
While the Pelicans traveled, Minnesota was rested. The Wolves last played on Friday, a loss at home to the Los Angeles Clippers, and used the time off to practice three times.
“We had four days off, they’re on a back-to-back, but you would think it was the other way around if you watched the game,” Wiggins said. “They played harder than us. They got more of the loose balls. They played like they wanted it more.”
Minus the injured Towns, Minnesota continued to struggle despite altering its starting lineup.
The Wolves led 7-0 early before Ingram started to carry New Orleans. Ingram made seven of his first 10 shots and scored 18 of New Orleans’ first 30 points.
The Pelicans took control by finishing the second quarter on an 18-8 run, with Ingram scoring seven during the stretch. Minnesota closed within eight in the fourth but got no closer.
“It feels good to get a win,” Ingram said. “I don’t think we talked about the streak much. I think we just talked about staying together. I think in the last few games, we just didn’t close them out, but we played really, really good defensively to be able to win basketball games.”
While New Orleans was able to enjoy snapping its skid, the Wolves must deal with theirs being extended.
“When you lose games, it’s heavy, especially in a streak,” Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders said. “I liked what we did the last couple days in practice. I know we felt good about those things. It didn’t translate tonight.”
Ingram continues his rise in his first season with New Orleans. With rookie Zion Williamson missing the entire season so far after knee surgery, Ingram has been the primary offensive option.
In three seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, Ingram averaged 13.9 points, 2.0 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game. Entering play Wednesday, he led the Pelicans with 24.9 points per game while chipping in 3.6 assists and 7.1 rebounds. The 34 points on Wednesday were six off his career high set in November.
“He really wants to be a great player,” Gentry said. “He continues to work on his defense. He continues to work on expanding his game from a 3-point shooting standpoint because he’s really dedicated to becoming a great player.”
Towns was held out because of a left knee sprain and Saunders called the big man day-to-day with the injury. It’s the first game this season Towns has missed due to injury. He sat out two games after being suspended for an altercation with Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.
Towns had 39 points and 12 rebounds in the previous game. In the fourth quarter, he went down hard after a missed dunk while being guarded by Montrezl Harrell.
Pelicans: The 18 points in the first quarter and 25 in the first half were career highs for Ingram in a quarter and half. … Holiday made three 3-pointers and became the Pelicans’ career leader with 556, surpassing Peja Stojakovic. … New Orleans held an opponent under 100 points for the first time this season. . E’Twaun Moore played 18 minutes and scored seven points in his first action since Dec. 3.
Timberwolves: Robert Covington didn’t start for disciplinary reasons after Saunders said Covington arrived late. He came off the bench for the first time this season and scored 15 points. Minnesota was also without starter Jarrett Culver because of flu-like symptoms. Gorgui Dieng started for Towns and had 13 points and eight rebounds. Jeff Teague and Treveon Graham also started in place of Culver and Covington.
Pelicans: Continue their road trip at Golden State on Friday.
Timberwolves: Travel to Denver to play on Friday.