MINNEAPOLIS -- Gorgui Dieng finished with 14 points and 15 rebounds, while Nikola Pekovic chipped in 13 points and 9 rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench Friday night. For those clamoring to see the two play next to each other in the frontcourt, tonight provided a glimpse at what that pairing might look like.
"We've got to experiment, see what we can do in playing the twin towers together," Flip Saunders said. "We're going to have to work on integrating [Pekovic] and [Dieng] together. We're going to have to change how we play and that's going to be an adjustment."
The combo looked good together in limited minutes and gave me some hope that they might actually be able to play together, which I've been skeptical about. But the Pelicans are also a team—armed with Anthony Davis and Omer Asik—that makes sense to go big against. How did Dieng feel about playing power forward next to Pekovic?
"It was good," Dieng said. "I got a chance to play the four and play with Pek. It's easier because he will have all the attention when he's on the court. I will help him get the ball better and find open areas." Dieng continued: "That was great for us, playing together. That shows we can play different positions and it will help us a lot."
The Wolves hung around all night, holding the Pelicans to 92 points—that makes two straight games of holding opponents under 100, the first time they have accomplished that this season—but the Pelicans made shots down the stretch and Minnesota couldn't overcome another rough showing offensively. The Wolves were held to 84 points on 41.7 percent shooting.
"Right now we're just offensively challenged shooting the ball," Saunders said.
Andrew Wiggins, arguably the team's MVP over the first half of the season (almost by default due to injuries), struggled to get anything going. His jumper wasn't falling and the Pelicans were extremely physical with him near the rim, which seemed to throw him off a bit because he wasn't getting many calls.
"This is probably Wiggins' worst game in the last five or six weeks," Saunders said. "It looked like he just didn't have a lot of energy. I don't know if it's hitting the rookie wall or what. As good as he's played for us, when he becomes the focal point like that, for us he can't afford to play average."
Wiggins struggled tonight, but I thought his energy level was fine throughout the game. I wouldn't necessarily attribute his performance to the rookie wall either. Rookies have bad games, this was one of those games. New Orleans is terrific at defending the rim and Wiggins became frustrated by a handful of non-calls when he attacked the basket. That affected his game, but he was still aggressive; he was getting good looks.
"I get a lot of things thrown at me," Wiggins said. "I just have to play my game, get to the spots that I usually am good at."
- Thad Young finished with 15 points and 4 assists, but had zero rebounds in almost 31 minutes. How does a power forward, even a weak rebounding four like Young, go an entire game without grabbing one measly rebound? That's concerning. Beyond the zero rebounds, Young did a fairly nice job defending Anthony Davis. He helped limit him to a 9-23 night from the floor in 42 minutes, though AD still had 21 points and 12 rebounds. The Unibrow makes everything look easy.
- Eric Gordon scored 20 points on 8-13 shooting. He looked good shooting out of pick-and-roll situations, going to his right and pulling up after one or two dribbles. This was his third 20+ point game of the season; he's been much better this month.
- What fascinates me most about Tyreke Evans? He almost exclusively relies on driving to the hoop with his right hand and finishing with his right, yet he's still effective; he gets to the rim at will. Evans is averaging 21.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists over his last four games.
- New Orleans shot 50 percent from the floor tonight, their ninth game shooting 50+ percent this season (9-0).
- Dante Cunningham made his return to Target Center, scoring 14 points on 7-12 shooting. This was his second-highest point total of the season (15 at Houston, Dec. 18). How was it playing back in Minnesota? "Honestly, it was another gym, another arena," Cunningham said. "I tried not to think about it too much but obviously it's in the back of your mind being here for two years but you've just got to go play and get a win."
- Chase Budinger showed a pulse, finishing with 10 points on 5-8 shooting. The next step is showing some sort of consistency. It's no secret Budinger's been bad this season, but he played a solid game tonight. He also added four assists. The Wolves had 27 assists, their most since handing out 30 on Jan. 7 vs. Phoenix.
- If you thought the Wolves were allergic to shooting 3-pointers, the Pelicans only attempted four tonight (3-4). Ironically, that was still enough to beat them from deep (2-9).