NEW ORLEANS — Anthony Davis wore his old, blue Kentucky jersey to Sunday night’s Pelicans game against Minnesota.
He said he wore it for good luck, adding: "We needed it."
By "we," Davis meant Kentucky, not the Pelicans, who finally seem to have adjusted to the seismic lineup shift caused by the acquisition of All-Star big man DeMarcus Cousins a month ago.
Davis had 28 points and 12 rebounds, and New Orleans won for the fourth time in five games by defeating the Timberwolves 123-109 on Sunday.
Cousins added 15 points and 11 rebounds in his return from a one-game absence because of left knee and rib soreness.
"Guys are stepping up, making big plays, especially at the right time," said Davis, whose highlights included a two-handed reverse dunk of E’Twaun Moore’s alley-oop lob. "Guys are doing things that we need them to do and I feel like we’re jelling and clicking."
Davis said that while he, Cousins and starting point guard Jrue Holiday are playing better together, they’ve also been conscientious about keeping other teammates engaged.
"We can’t win if other guys aren’t involved, so we’ve got to sacrifice shots to make sure that these guys are confident and always ready to play, always ready to shoot," Davis said. "That’s what being a leader is."
New Orleans wound up with six players scoring more than 10 points. Reserve guard Jordan Crawford had a season-high 22 points in 21 minutes, while Holiday added 21 points and shot 4 of 5 from 3-point range. Moore added 14 points off the bench and Solomon Hill 13.
"We are getting contributions from everywhere," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. "It’s not like we have to depend on one or two guys."
Karl-Anthony Towns scored 33 for the Timberwolves, who lost their third straight. Andrew Wiggins added 25 points and reserve Shabazz Muhammad had 20 for Minnesota.
Ricky Rubio chipped in with 10 points and 14 assists for the Wolves, who built a 13-point lead in the second quarter only to fade late as New Orleans closed the game on a 21-10 run.
"This road trip we’re playing like we don’t care," said Rubio, whose team was still in the hunt for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot a week ago. "It’s a shame on us that we get three games like that seeming like it’s not important. These were the most important games we were playing all season."
The Pelicans shot 71.4 per cent (15 for 21) in the third quarter, briefly taking their first lead of the game when Davis slammed down Holiday’s short lob.
Towns, who shot 14 of 27, responded with one of his four 3s to give the Wolves the lead right back, but New Orleans kept coming.
Crawford hit a pair of pull-up jumpers late in the period and Cousins added a 3, helping New Orleans take an 88-84 lead into the fourth.
Minnesota was as close as 102-99 on Towns’ dunk, but Holiday’s turnaround jumper sparked a decisive 12-0 run that included 3s from Hill and Moore.
"The game is in the balance, you’ve got a chance to win in the fourth, and you let go of the rope and that’s what happens. So there’s not much fight," Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We had to make tough plays in the fourth quarter. We didn’t do it."
Cousins, who grew up in Mobile, Alabama, has started calling Crawford "instant grits," because of his ability to score in bunches.
Crawford did just that, scoring 12 points in several minutes late in the third quarter and early in the fourth. He hit nine of his 13 shots overall, including four 3s.
"We tell him to keep shooting. He’s playing at a high level right now," Davis said, adding that the "instant grits" nickname works. "That’s exactly what it is."
Timberwolves: Thibodeau was called for a technical foul by official James Williams when the Minnesota coach held his arms out and appeared to complain after Davis converted a transition layup in the third quarter. … The Wolves got only six points from reserves other than Muhammad, and their bench was outscored 46-26.
Pelicans: Swept the three-game season series, winning each by double digits. … Before the game, New Orleans signed guard Quinn Cook to a 10-day contract. Cook, signed from Canton of the NBA Development League, got into the game in the final minutes and missed the lone shot he took.
Timberwolves: Host the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday.
Pelicans: Host the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday.