MINNEAPOLIS -- Nikola Pekovic had 22 points and seven rebounds and the Minnesota Timberwolves led by as many as 30 points in cruising to a 124-112 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night.
Kevin Love had 21 points and six rebounds and Ricky Rubio had 14 points, nine assists, eight rebounds and three steals for the Timberwolves. Minnesota shot 55.7 per cent, attempted 35 free throws and forced a season-high 18 turnovers from the Pelicans.
Ryan Anderson had 25 points and Tyreke Evans added 16 points and seven boards for New Orleans. Eric Gordon returned from a three-game absence because of a bruised hip, but struggled with 12 points on 5-for-12 shooting.
Kevin Martin scored 20 points and reserve J.J. Barea had 17 to help the Wolves (16-16) to a needed win over New Orleans (14-16) in the jockeying for position in the tough Western Conference. The Wolves are currently in ninth place, one spot out of the playoffs and the Pelicans are right behind them.
With Anthony Davis prowling the paint, the Pelicans lead the league in blocked shots and had a decided edge in athleticism over the Wolves. But Minnesota countered with a physical front court that gave the Pelicans fits.
New Orleans coach Monty Williams had a difficult decision to make on defence, and he chose to put Davis on Love and Anderson against Pekovic for most of the night. Anderson was no match for the big Montenegrin in the post, who has been picking up steam in the last few weeks.
Pekovic entered the night averaging 23.5 points and 11.2 rebounds over his last six games.
The matchup difficulties contributed to early foul trouble for the Pelicans.
Davis, Jrue Holiday and Alexis Ajinca picked up three fouls a piece in the first half, and Minnesota shot 24 free throws in the first two quarters to build a 14-point lead.
The Pelicans usually are very good at taking care of the ball, but they turned it over 16 times in the first half. It only got worse in the third quarter.
Minnesota used a 15-0 run early in the quarter to really open things up and Love's only 3-pointer of the night gave them an 87-57 lead with under five minutes to play in the third.
Davis finished with 13 points, six rebounds and four blocks and Holiday had 19 for New Orleans.
NOTES: New Orleans fell to 2-10 against the West. ... Alexey Shved added 10 points as Minnesota's reserves scored 42 points, one game after managing just five in a loss to Dallas. ... The Pelicans fell to 12-4 when scoring 100 points.