Pelicans Timberwolves Basketball

Newly acquired Minnesota Timberwolves' Dario Saric, right, of Croatia, tries to reach the ball as New Orleans Pelicans' Julius Randle keeps it at arm's length in the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

MINNEAPOLIS — Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry talked with his team about it Tuesday. And then again Wednesday. It was a warning.

The Minnesota Timberwolves, with their newly acquired players in the lineup for the first time since Jimmy Butler was traded to Philadelphia, were going to hit the Target Center floor with a lot of energy Wednesday night. With the Butler trade, a cloud had been lifted.

So, Gentry said, be ready.

Apparently not everyone was listening. And with the Wolves' 107-100 win Wednesday night, the Pelicans saw their three-game winning streak halted by a Minnesota team playing with Robert Covington and Dario Saric for the first time.

The Pelicans fell behind by 21 points midway through the third quarter. Over the next 24 or so minutes they fought back, taking a brief two-point lead with 4 minutes and 40 seconds left to go in the game.

But they couldn’t hold it and fell to 7-7.

“You were going to get a reaction from this team," Gentry said of the Wolves (6-9), who improved to 5-1 at home. “With everything they’ve gone through? You have prideful team guys on (that) team. They want to show the world they’re pretty good."

The Pelicans got 31 points from E’Twaun Moore, 29 points and 11 rebounds from Anthony Davis. In his first game back from an ankle injury, Nikola Mirotic had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Jrue Holiday had 14, including a nine-foot basket with 4:40 left that put the Pelicans up 96-94.

“We had executed well," Holiday said. “We had the game, the momentum, in our possession."

But then the bubble burst. Maybe it was all the energy expended coming back from 21 down.

Moments later, Wolves guard Andrew Wiggins hit a 3-pointer, part of his nine fourth-quarter points. Moments later he hit a free throw and the Wolves didn’t trail again.

Battling both Davis and foul trouble, Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns had 25 points and 16 rebounds. His block on Davis with 1:59 left and the Wolves up four was game-changing. Wiggins scored 23. Covington and Saric combined for 22 points in their first game in a Wolves uniform.

In a tale of two halves, the Pelicans allowed the Wolves to score 69 points on 52 percent shooting in the first half but just 40 points on 28.6 percent in the second.

“We took the lead; we had a chance to win the game,’’ Moore said. “It’s just tough. We can’t dig ourselves a hole like that early. It takes way too much effort to try to fight back and try to win. But we have to keep going, learn from this."

And soon, Gentry said.

“We battled back, we did a good job, our defense really picked up,’’ he said. “To the point where we got ahead by two. Then we had some really poor possessions. Those are the things that cost you. But the bottom line is they just out-played us. I was appalled at the way we started."

NOTE: Elfrid Payton missed his ninth game with an ankle injury. But, Gentry said, Payton is very close to returning. Indeed, he could have played Wednesday. “It’s really close," Gentry said. “But not quite there."