NEW ORLEANS — In a small locker room after the Timberwolves beat the Pelicans 110-96 for their fourth consecutive victory Monday, guard Patrick Beverley was heaping helpings of beef with A-1 Steak Sauce and fingerling potatoes into a bowl for the plane ride home.
He was also heaping a lot of praise on a player who has surprised him since he joined the Wolves — Jarred Vanderbilt.
"I'll be honest, and it's no discredit to him, I just didn't know — I didn't know Vanderbilt was that good defensively," the veteran Beverley said. "He's great. I played with a lot of great defensive guys — Kawhi [Leonard], Paul George. I don't mean that because he's my teammate. I really, really mean that. ... I didn't know he was that good."
In the boxscore, Vanderbilt was 16-points, 11-rebounds good, and it was his effort on the glass and defensively that helped the Wolves make up for an off shooting night (40% from the field, 23% from three-point range).
Even with those substandard shooting numbers, the Wolves still won going away and led by as much as 26. That was because they won the hustle stats — 28 points off 23 New Orleans turnovers and 26 second-chance points. Monday's performance was the antithesis of the last time the Wolves played New Orleans on Oct. 25, when the Pelicans outrebounded them 60-41. The Wolves (8-9) had the rebounding edge Monday, 49-48. Jonas Valanciunas was a bully in the post, but Karl-Anthony Towns came out with a mission to not let Valanciunas have the upper hand. He was aggressive early and often and took the ball to the rim for the Wolves' first seven points on his way to 28 and 10 rebounds.
There was a little more than determination running through Towns' system after he stopped at a coffee shop called Perks in New Orleans.
"I ain't gonna lie to you, I had a lot of coffee before the game," Towns said. "So I was just trying to go downhill most of the game. There was a lot of caffeine in me."
Perhaps Towns should have that extra latte every night because he played aggressive without going out of control and losing his cool, the way he played two previous times against Valanciunas.
"I've seen enough games in a row now to know what the game will be played like," Towns said. "I don't have time to worry about it. Just got to keep going downhill and being aggressive and let the chips fall where they fall."
The chips fell in the Wolves' favor even as their shots didn't. Anthony Edwards and D'Angelo Russell combined to shoot only 9-for-32, but it didn't much matter. Vanderbilt played defense on the Pelicans' Brandon Ingram (nine points) for large chunks of the night while Jaden McDaniels pitched in a solid game off the bench with 10 points and eight rebounds. Seven of Vanderbilt's 11 rebounds came on the offensive glass and he also drew at least two fouls in attempting to get others.
"He impacts winning on like another level and never gives up on a play," Beverley said. "Always engaged. His IQ for the game is way better than I thought it was. ... Me and him try to set the tone defensively and he makes my job a lot easier for sure."
After the game, Vanderbilt let out a yell in the tunnel and started shouting "first team," a reference to wanting to make the All-NBA defensive first team.
There was then a voice that came shouting behind him. It was Beverley, echoing his "first team" chant.
Together they jogged back to the locker room to celebrate another win.