Jimmy Butler handed the Pelicans the final dagger.
Tied with 34.2 seconds to go in the final quarter, Butler halted a fourth-quarter surge by the Pelicans with an old-fashioned 3-point play, setting the table for the Minnesota Timberwolves’ 104-98 win Wednesday at the Smoothie King Center.
“They made plays, we didn’t make plays," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. "When you’re in a close game like that, that’s usually the difference in the game."
With a chance to tie it after Butler's basket, guard Jrue Holiday gifted Minnesota with the Pelicans' 19th turnover on another sloppy night, despite DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis contributing for more than half of New Orleans' offensive production.
The Pelicans’ 19 turnovers led to multiple extra possessions for the Timberwolves, and a lack of complimentary scorers to aid Cousins and Davis' 59 combined points added up to another loss for the Pelicans (3-5), their second in a row.
Behind Cousins and Davis and a season-high 10-point burst from guard Tony Allen off the bench, the Pelicans chopped away at Minnesota’s 12-point lead to a 98-98 tie before Butler’s 3-point play.
"For the most part, we played hard," Allen said. "We've got to be more careful in those situations."
"Jimmy made the big play, and that basically was the game."
Cousins, who admittedly struggled through a low-energy night Monday against the Magic, finished with 35 points and nine rebounds to complete his eighth consecutive double-figure night in as many games this season.
Davis wasn't too far behind, adding 24 points and 10 rebounds.
But the Pelicans' other three starters — Holiday, E'Twaun Moore and Dante Cunningham — combined for a mere 22 points on 26 attempts.
"We had a lot of good looks tonight," Davis said. "Just missed them."
Even with the towering duo's good, there was the bad.
Cousins' 14 first-quarter points kept the Pelicans within range of the Timberwolves (5-3) for a short while, despite seven team turnovers in the opening quarter.
Cousins contributed eight turnovers of his own, rocketing New Orleans' turnover count to 19 or more for the second consecutive game. The Pelicans finished with a game-high 20 giveaways Monday, largely because of careless possessions, Gentry said.
On the other hand, the Pelicans forced a season-high 21 turnovers of their own.
The Pelicans offense, per usual, ran through Cousins and Davis near the rim, and the Pelicans finished with 52 total points inside.
Minnesota blistered the Pelicans for 31 and 34 points in the first and second quarters before New Orleans allowed a mere 18 points in the third quarter — their lowest mark for the third quarter this season — to wipe away Minnesota's 11-point halftime lead.
By way of Cousins' five 3-pointers, which tied his career best, the Pelicans made a run at the spry Timberwolves, outscoring Minnesota by five points in the third.
Cousins' sixth game with 25-plus points could be attributed, somewhat, to Minnesota's foul trouble. Beginning with two quick fouls in the first quarter, Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns played 22 total minutes and sat for a majority of Wednesday's game until the fourth quarter.
"We played well," Gentry said. "We took one of the best centers in the game right out of the game. I thought AD and DeMarcus both did a good job on him."
New Orleans’ run at holding a .500 record for the second time this week fell short again.
With the loss, the Pelicans completed their three-game homestand at 1-2 before they depart for a four-game road trip to Dallas, Chicago, Indiana and Toronto.
"We've got to worry about us and try to take care of business on the road on game at a time," Davis said.