MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — New Orleans coach Monty Williams had a difficult decision to make against Minnesota's bruising front court of Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic.
He decided to use young star Anthony Davis on Love in an effort to neutralize the Timberwolves' best player. That left power forward Ryan Anderson to match up against Pekovic, and the burly center ate the Pelicans up down low.
Pekovic had 22 points and seven rebounds and the Timberwolves led by as many as 30 points in cruising to a 124-112 victory over the Pelicans on Wednesday night.
"On nights like today when maybe they want to stop Kevin Love, we had another guy who is Pek," said Ricky Rubio, who had 14 points, nine assists, eight rebounds and three steals. "He is strong. If you don't put a big body on him, he's going to destroy him."
Pekovic got to the free throw line for 11 of Minnesota's 35 attempts and Love had a quiet night by his lofty standards with 21 points and six rebounds. Minnesota shot 55.7 percent and forced a season-high 18 turnovers from the Pelicans.
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.
"The reality is the game plan that I gave them was not appropriate for this group," Williams said. "We should have just kept it as simple as we had been and made our adjustments from there. I went to an adjustment right from the jump."
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 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 their considerable muscle to dominate the first three quarters.
Pekovic signed a five-year, $60 million contract in the summer, but got off to an underwhelming start while trying to find his way in Minnesota's new-look offense. He's picked up steam of late, and entered the night averaging 23.5 points and 11.2 rebounds over his last six games.