(Photo credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports)
The New Orleans Pelicans shook off a five-game losing streak with impressive home wins against the Dallas Mavericks and the Denver Nuggets.
They'll try to continue their momentum when they play the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night in the fourth game of a six-game homestand.
The Pelicans had their most productive offensive game of the season in a 131-110 victory against the Mavericks on Tuesday and had three players score more than 20 points in their 115-110 victory over the Nuggets on Friday.
But it has been improved defense that has fueled the offensive efficiency.
"We are starting to trust each other (on defense)," said forward Zion Williamson, who scored 26 points against the Nuggets. "The more stops we get, the more we can get out in transition."
New Orleans had high-quality shots from all over the floor against Denver, making 52 percent of its field-goal attempts as well as its 3-pointers. Jonas Valanciunas scored 22 points and Brandon Ingram had 21. Naji Marshall scored 12 off the bench and Dyson Daniels added 10.
The Pelicans led by as many as 20 points, but saw the Nuggets get as close as one point late in the fourth quarter before Williamson and Ingram had two baskets each in an 8-0 run that helped preserve the lead.
"Across the board, all of our guys came in and played with energy and effort," Pelicans head coach Willie Green said. "We were able to do enough to sustain their run."
New Orleans will complete a back-to-back when it faces Minnesota, which didn't fare well when it completed a back-to-back in its last game.
The Timberwolves' seven-game winning streak ended in lopsided fashion when they lost to the host Phoenix Suns 133-115 on Wednesday night.
Guard Anthony Edwards called the loss to the Suns "just an old-fashioned butt-whooping."
Phoenix started by making 12 of its first 14 shots and finished by shooting 60 percent from the floor and 55 percent on 3-pointers.
"If you want to have the level of success that we want to have, we do have to come out with a little more urgency and physicality," Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert said. "(You can say) yes, I fell asleep at 6 a.m. Yes, it was a back-to-back, coming from the West Coast (Golden State) and everything, but I do think there are a lot of things that we can control. We didn't do those things in the first half.
"We've got to find the energy and the mental willpower to do those things when it's a back-to-back, when we're tired. There are going to be times if you're in the playoffs and it's a Game 7 and you're tired, you've got to find ways to keep doing the things that make you successful and help you win games."
Karl-Anthony Towns led the Wolves with 25 points, Mike Conley had 14 and Edwards finished with 13 on 4-of-16 shooting.
The Wolves defeated the Pelicans 122-101 on Nov. 8 in Minneapolis as Edwards had 26 points and eight assists, Towns had 23 points on -of-12 shooting and Gobert added 17 points and 21 rebounds.
--Field Level Media