NEW ORLEANS – James Johnson fired up the tunes on his big Bose speaker and carried it like he was carrying a trophy inside the visitors locker room at Smoothie King Center.
Assistant strength and conditioning coach Kurt Joseph hooked up his Bluetooth speaker in the outside hallway that doubled as a makeshift workout area for D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley after the game.
“Let’s get busy,” Beasley said, just before coach Ryan Saunders held his postgame media session a few feet away.
All the Timberwolves wanted to do after their 139-134 was listen to music and take a few moments to celebrate the win.
That’s understandable, given wins have been hard to come by for the Wolves. But this group has now won for the second time in its past four games, and it did so against a young, talented team on its own floor fighting for a playoff spot.
“We all did our jobs, and we paid our rent for the day,” center Naz Reid said.
Reid contributed a lot to that rent check as he took on rookie phenomenon Zion Williamson (25 points) and held his own with a 13-point, 14-rebound performance — his first career double-double.
“It should mean a lot to his confidence. We like what he does. I hope everybody else sees what he can do, too.”
“I told Naz that was a great performance,” Beasley said. “He’s been battling tough bigs every night. He got Joker [Denver’s Nikola Jokic], he’s had [Orlando’s Nikola] Vucevic and he’s only a rook, man. He’s learning every night.”
Beasley was on fire and finished with 28 points on 11 of 13 shooting. He helped propel the Wolves forward when they were down 12 in the second quarter by scoring 12. The Wolves flipped that 12-point deficit to a seven-point lead.
“Malik Beasley kept us in the game,” Russell said. “He made big plays defensively and offensively. He just took the stress off everybody, to be honest. Big game.”
Russell saved his best for last, as he scored 10 of his 23 in the fourth as the Wolves went on a 9-1 run to take a 122-120 lead with 6:52 to play. An 11-2 spurt gave the Wolves a 133-124 lead with 2:55 left, and they held on thanks in part to a zone defense the New Orleans couldn’t shoot over. The Pelicans shot two of 11 from three-point range in the fourth quarter.
The Wolves had eight players in double figures and set a franchise record for most points in a road game that didn’t go to overtime.
“It was a major team win the way guys battled,” Saunders said. “They withstood their runs. That team is playing really well, and they got a lot of talent over there that can really come at you in waves. So I’m proud of what our group was able to do.”
There is little time for revelry, as the Wolves play Chicago in Minneapolis on Wednesday. That meant a long flight home after Tuesday’s win, with Beasley providing chicken wings for the team on the flight. But unlike other flights this season, this one was going to be a happy one.
The Wolves and Pelicans both came into the night in the top five in pace and bottom 10 in defensive rating, and the game was a track meet. Both teams executed offense at a high level; the Wolves just had a little more fuel. The praise flowed for Reid, the undrafted rookie who played at LSU and has played major minutes as Karl-Anthony Towns recovers from a wrist fracture.
“It should mean a lot to his confidence,” Saunders said. “We like what he does. I hope everybody else sees what he can do, too.”
Added Reid: “I’m young, and there’s not a lot of leeway and things like that. Just got to be yourself. You’re not going to have a perfect game.”