NBA highlights on Jan. 30: Tough wins for Timberwolves, Nuggets
Li Xiang

Only two of the eight NBA games on Wednesday were close. The New Orleans Pelicans, without five key players, went down 105-99 to the Denver Nuggets in a tough game. The Memphis Grizzlies went even closer, taking Minnesota Timberwolves to overtime before losing 99-97 thanks to a buzzer beater by Karl-Anthony Towns.

Never underestimate 'broken birds'

New Orleans Pelicans players confer in the game they lost to the Denver Nuggets 105-99 on January 30. /VCG Photo

New Orleans Pelicans players confer in the game they lost to the Denver Nuggets 105-99 on January 30. /VCG Photo

How broken was New Orleans' squad? They did not have two of the team's top three scorers: Anthony Davis and Julius Randle. They lost their best three rebounders, Davis, Randle and Nikola Mirotic. Moreover, the Pelicans could not send Elfrid Payton who could deliver the second most 5.8 assists per game – by the way, Davis ranked third with 4.4 assists over average. Compared with the above, losing Davis' 2.6 blocks and 1.7 steals plus Payton's 1.2 steals per game did not seem so sad.

However, none of these made New Orleans an easy opponent. By exploiting their advantage in the paint, Denver expanded their lead multiple times from seven points to 11 at most but had to watch the Pelicans catch up as Darius Miller, Kenrich Williams and Ian Clark kept sinking three-pointers. Williams, who played only 9.9 minutes on average in the 16 games before Wednesday, was given 37 minutes and dropped 21 points, eight rebounds and two blocks.

Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets drives to the basket against the Pelicans on January 30. /VCG Photo

Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets drives to the basket against the Pelicans on January 30. /VCG Photo

However, the Nuggets were the better team after all. With three players – Monte Morris, Malik Beasley and Nikola Jokic – scoring 20+points, the team managed to maintain their lead for most of the game. Meanwhile, in addition to their 10 steals, Denver also forced New Orleans to commit 14 turnovers, which led to 26 points. In the last two minutes, Jokic scored four straight points in the paint, bringing himself another 20+point triple-double (20 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists) and sealing the win for his team.

Timberwolves win an ugly game

Karl Anthony-Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves makes a buzzer beater in overtime to help his team defeat the Memphis Grizzlies 99-97 on January 30. /VCG Photo

Karl Anthony-Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves makes a buzzer beater in overtime to help his team defeat the Memphis Grizzlies 99-97 on January 30. /VCG Photo

The season was basically over for Memphis even before Wednesday: They have won only 20 of the 51 games so far and made it public that they're willing to trade the team's two franchise players, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. Nonetheless, Minnesota were not much better: They won four more games but had to see the team's three point guards – Derrick Rose, Jeff Teague and Tyus Jones – sit on the bench for this game.

The Grizzlies showed their toughness, especially in defense, in every minute of the game. Their physical competition only let three Timberwolves – Taj Gibson, Gorgui Dieng and Dario Saric – reach over 50 percent in field goal rate while only one of them scored over 10 points. In OT, the two teams together dropped 10 points while the players had to throw themselves on the floor for even a rebound. Chinese basketball commentator Zheng Cheng at Tencent Sports even said: "I have not seen so many falls even in an NFL game."

Mike Conley of the Grizzlies in action against the Timberwolves on January 30. /VCG Photo

Mike Conley of the Grizzlies in action against the Timberwolves on January 30. /VCG Photo

The Timberwolves owed their low efficiency in offense (38.95 percent in FG rate and 22.86 percent in 3-pt rate) half to the opponent's defense and had to blame themselves for the other half. Towns finally broke his scoring drought in the third quarter with 10 points in a row but soon had to return to the bench because of his fourth foul. Andrew Wiggins took 19 shots but only made four of them. In the end, the team had to rely on 31-year-old Jerryd Bayless who just played his first game for Minnesota on Wednesday to score the team's highest 19 points.

Anthony-Towns had his salvation in OT. Though he soon received the fifth personal foul in less than 30 seconds and missed two three-pointers, he grabbed the offensive rebound with only three seconds to go and sank the buzzer beater to help Minnesota claim victory.

Trail Blazers on a killing spree

C.J. McCollum #3 of the Portland Trail Blazers makes a floater in the game they won against the Utah Jazz 132-105 on January 30. /VCG Photo

C.J. McCollum #3 of the Portland Trail Blazers makes a floater in the game they won against the Utah Jazz 132-105 on January 30. /VCG Photo

The game between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Utah Jazz was supposed to be a close one but the truth was a different story. Portland were on fire from the beginning to finish the first quarter 45-27, thanks to the 20 points by C.J. McCollum who made all his nine shots this quarter.

Utah began a painful running-after journey after that. Though the Trail Blazers fell into a scoring drought multiple times, the Jazz were not known for their remarkable offense, not to mention the team's habit of playing steady instead of playing fast. Utah led in the second and fourth quarter but only by two points respectively. By contrast, they were unable to score after narrowing the score difference down to 70-80 in the third quarter and had to watch Portland launch a 17-0 run. The game then became a foregone conclusion before it ended as a big win 132-105 for the Trail Blazers.

Other results on Wednesday: (away teams mentioned first)

Charlotte Hornets 94-126 Boston Celtics

Chicago Bulls 105-89 Miami Heat

Dallas Mavericks 114-90 New York Knicks

Indiana Pacers 89-107 Washington Wizards

Atlanta Hawks 113-135 Sacramento Kings