Life without Jimmy Butler has been just fine for the Minnesota Timberwolves (6-9), who improved to 2-0 without their former disgruntled superstar with a 107-100 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, Butler scored 14 points in his first game with the Philadelphia 76ers, who blew a 21-point lead and lost to the Orlando Magic.
With Butler gone, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins stepped up and came through in the clutch.
Leading 102-98, Pelicans star Anthony Davis attacked the basket only to have Towns stuff the shot for a key block. Seconds later, Towns found Wiggins on a give-and-go that Wiggins finished with massive, two-handed dunk and a foul to put the Wolves up 105-98 with 1:50 left in the game.
"When you see great effort plays, which both of those were, they do nothing but unite and inspire the team. Everyone can see it, and you feel it. I think that emotion is great and those are tough plays, those are winning plays," head coach Tom Thibodeau said of those plays.
"I think we all recognize how great that was."
The back-to-back plays helped Minnesota pull away after New Orleans fought back from a 21-point deficit and took the lead 98-96 late in the fourth quarter.
Wiggins finished with 23 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals. Towns had 25 points and 16 rebounds despite hardly playing in the third quarter because of foul trouble.
Wednesday was the first game for Minnesota's parts of the Butler trade, and Robert Covington and Dario Saric didn't disappoint.
Covington provided the big-time defense he's known for while contributing 13 points and seven rebounds. He knocked three 3-pointers, too. Saric also drilled 1-of-2 threes and finished with nine points in 20 minutes off the bench.
"One game doesn't mean you have it all figured out," said Thibodeau. "Just come in tomorrow, be hungry to improve and be ready to play. The games keep coming."
The Wolves host Portland (10-4) in a big divisional game Friday night.