New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) drives to the basket against Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Monday, December 11, 2023 (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

NEW ORLEANS – Zion Williamson scored a season-high 36 points, CJ McCollum added nine of his 23 points in the fourth quarter on three 3-pointers, and the New Orleans Pelicans defeated the NBA-leading Minnesota Timberwolves 121-107 on Monday night. .

The game was a test of character for the Pelicans, following a 133-89 loss at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers in the semifinals of the NBA season tournament in Las Vegas on Thursday night.

Williamson was mocked by national NBA analysts after scoring 13 points on eight shots and finishing with just three rebounds against the Lakers. Some said he looked out of shape and others said he couldn't increase his intensity level against a LeBron James-led team that looked much more motivated.

Against the T-Wolves, Williamson repeatedly scored on strong drives to the basket, often finishing well on the glass to beat long-range Minnesota center Rudy Gobert.

Williamson's highlights included a double-bomb floater off the glass to the left of the lane when he was fouled by Jaden McDaniels to make it 109-94 with 4:51 left. It was his third game this season with over 30 points.

The Wolves played without leading scorer Anthony Edwards, who left Friday night's win at Memphis with a right hip injury.

Karl-Anthony Towns led the Timberwolves with 17 points and 12 rebounds, but he fouled out with 2:35 left and his team trailed by 14. Mike Conley and Naz Reid scored 17 points each for Minnesota, which had won nine of its games. 10 previous. games.

Brandon Ingram scored 20 points and Jonas Valanciunas had 14 points and 13 rebounds for New Orleans, which won for the first time in three games against Minnesota this season.

It took Minnesota nearly four minutes to score its first basket of the fourth quarter. It happened on Conley's 3, which cut New Orleans' lead to 99-89.

Minnesota briefly got within 99-91 before Williamson made a layup and Ingram came up with a foul to make it 104-91. The Wolves didn't threaten after that.

Williamson, Ingram and McCollum each scored at least 10 points in the first half, and Ingram hit a 31-foot shot at halftime to give New Orleans a 59-52 lead.

Minnesota's Jordan McLaughlin hit a half-court shot at the third-quarter buzzer.

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Timberwolves: Visit Dallas on Thursday night.

Pelicans: Visit Washington on Wednesday night.



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