NEW ORLEANS — Karl-Anthony Towns threw his arms up after getting stripped clean on a drive and slapped the stanchion as the New Orleans Pelicans converted his turnover into a layup for their biggest lead.
Then he channeled that frustration into positive focus, leading the Minnesota Timberwolves to a rare comeback victory on the road.
Towns had 30 points and 15 rebounds, Andrew Wiggins hit two free throws with 3.6 seconds left and the Timberwolves rallied to beat the short-handed Pelicans 112-110 on Saturday night.
Towns started the comeback with back-to-back dunks and a three-point play in quick succession to keep Minnesota in range after trailing 74-60 in the third quarter.
"It was a collective effort, he said. "We could have quit at any given time. We kept falling behind by 12, 10, double-digit leads, but we kept fighting back. We never quit. That’s what makes this win so satisfying. It was one of our better victories."
Zach LaVine added 25 points on 11-of-17 shooting, including a 3-pointer with 2:43 left that gave the Timberwolves their first lead since the first quarter.
The Pelicans tied the score at 110 on two free throws by Eric Gordon with 12.2 seconds left. Wiggins, who was only 5 of 15 from the floor, then drove to the basket and Gordon was called for a foul.
Gordon and Ryan Anderson scored 31 points each for New Orleans, which played without star forward Anthony Davis after he sprained his right big toe in pregame warm-ups. The injury prevented an interesting matchup of two former Kentucky stars — Davis was a first-team All-NBA selection last season, and Towns is a leading candidate for rookie of the year.
"Obviously I was disappointed," Towns said. "He’s one of the best players in the league, and I wanted to go against and absolutely battle and compete against him."
Minnesota used strong shooting by Towns and LaVine to come back. Towns connected on 13 of 20 shots, scoring eight quick points late in the third quarter to keep the Timberwolves within range, and LaVine hit three shots in a row as Minnesota turned a 101-97 deficit into a 106-103 lead in the fourth.
Gordon tied it with a 3-pointer at the 1:55 mark, setting up a back-and-forth finish. His two free throws put the Pelicans ahead 108-106 before Wiggins hit a pair of foul shots to tie it again. Gorgui Dieng then drove for a layup to give Minnesota a 110-108 lead with 26 seconds left.
New Orleans used a 10-0 run late in the second quarter to go ahead 56-45 at the half and maintained a comfortable margin until finally feeling Davis’ absence down the stretch. The Timberwolves outscored the Pelicans 18-4 in the paint during the fourth quarter, winning for only the third time in their last 21 road games.
Wiggins struggled from the floor all night, and shot an air ball floater from 5 feet that would tied the score in the fourth quarter. But he hit all 10 of his free throws, finishing with 20 points.
"It’s our 19th win, and they’ve all been satisfying," Minnesota interim coach Sam Mitchell said. "The young guys made plays. It makes you feel good that they’re learning and growing."
Jrue Holiday had 20 points and eight assists for the Pelicans, but he also committed six turnovers.
Davis is listed as day-to-day.
"I’m not quite too sure the extent of how it will affect him," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. "But we expect for him to come back and play."
The Timberwolves’ Tyus Jones raced down the court after a Pelicans basket with 2.8 seconds left in the first quarter and drained a long-range 3-pointer as time ran out. Anderson answered him with a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the half, catching a pass from Holiday in the final second and sinking a 3 it to make the score 56-45.
Towns scored one of his six baskets in the first half after a series of moves in the post, faking this way and that before making a shot. At the next dead ball, Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry questioned loudly how a 3-second violation was not called. Holiday heard him and added his opinion: "He was dribbling in there, too. He was working on a mix tape."
Timberwolves: Minnesota capitalized on its best chance for a win during its three-game road trip. It faces Dallas on Sunday and is 1-9 in the second game of back-to-backs. . The Timberwolves, who have taken the fewest 3s in the NBA and made the third-lowest percentage, were 3 for 10 through three quarters.
Pelicans: Veteran C Kendrick Perkins played a season-high 20 minutes in Davis’ absence. He made 1 of 5 shots and had three rebounds. . The Pelicans lost for the first time in eight games to the Timberwolves.