NEW ORLEANS -- Minnesota Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman promised the season's third meeting with the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday would be different from the first two times when his team won at Target Center.
He was regrettably right about a 98-91 loss to the Pelicans at newly renamed Smoothie King Center.
Leading by 12 late in the third quarter and by nine with 10 minutes left, the Wolves gave up 37 fourth-quarter points while their offense disappeared once again down the stretch. They made only two field goals during a nearly eight-minute stretch after taking a 75-66 lead with 10 minutes remaining.
The Pelicans went on a 21-6 run after that, led by guard Eric Gordon's shooting and newly named All-Star forward Anthony Davis' physical presence over the next seven minutes. New Orleans took an 87-81 lead with three-plus minutes left, and the Wolves never recovered.
Gordon scored nine of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, when the Wolves scorers went cold in a fourth quarter that presented the same sort of themes that have cost them games all season.
"I don't think we played well together," Adelman said afterward. "We've got to find a way to trust each other better than that."
When Ricky Rubio's three-pointer got the Wolves within 89-85 with 2:17 left, Pelicans reserve Anthony Morrow answered with a wide-open three of his own created when Rubio and Corey Brewer got tangled up down the floor together and neither could get back up the floor in time.
New Orleans point guard Brian Roberts, playing for the injured Jrue Holliday, sealed the victory with a long two-pointer with 22.9 seconds to play after the Wolves pulled within 94-91.
The Pelicans started their comeback from nine down with 10 minutes left against a Wolves' second unit that has struggled most of the season trying to supplement what the team's starting five produces.
After a game in which the Wolves got star Kevin Love back in the lineup for 26 points and 19 rebounds, Adelman was asked if stuck with the second unit too long.
"I don't know," he said. "I'll have to look and see. I don't know, yeah, we lost the game so I guess I did something wrong."
Love played 35-plus minutes and worked his way to the free-throw line for more shots -- 17-16 -- than the entire Pelicans team took all night. Love vowed to play even though he said he still was feeling the effects from a nasty fall he took late in Tuesday's victory over the Lakers.
Love came out of a timeout late in the second quarter, bent over and daggled his arms near his knees, shaking something out of a body that he described as "very stiff, very sore" on Friday morning, nearly three days after he fell so hard late in Tuesday's game.
In the third quarter, he went down in a heap under one basket while scrapping for an offensive rebound and after his teammates gathered around him, he got up and limped back to the bench for a timeout before playing on.
Earlier Friday, Davis was named to take injured Western Conference starter Kobe Bryant in next week's NBA All-Star Game, to be played in New Orleans. Then he went out and scored 17 first-half points and finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds.
"He's played very well all year long," Adelman said. "I think he certainly deserves it. He's the leading shot blocker in the league and he leads his team the whole time. I had a feeling all along he'd be the one they'd choose and rightly so. They get a representative from New Orleans in the game and he's certainly worthy of it."
The first time these teams played, the Wolves thumped the Pelicans 124-112 at Target Center on New Year's Day night. The second time they met, the Pelicans played without Davis and three other important players -- including Ryan Anderson and Holiday -- and they scored a season low in an 88-77 loss on Jan. 29, also at Target Center.
On Friday, Davis was back in the lineup, but Anderson, Holiday and big man Jason Smith remained out.
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