Two Andrew Wiggins free throws resulting from a blocking foul on a final possession drive gave the Wolves a 112-110 road victory tonight over the New Orleans Pelicans tonight.
For much of the game, it looked like it would be the third loss in as many games for the Wolves against the Pelicans, who were without Anthony Davis who was out with a foot injury. Despite Davis' absence, the Pels had no trouble scoring on the Wolves, with Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon leading the way with 31 points each and Jrue Holiday coming off the bench for 20.
But a surge from the bench early in the fourth quarter got the Wolves within shouting distance, and then a late flurry of shot making, notably by Zach LaVine, made it a down to the wire affair.
Through most of the game, the Wolves simply could not handle either Anderson, whose perimeter game was too much for either of the Wolves bigs to handle, or their pair of strong, physical guards in Gordon and Holiday. On the flip side, Karl-Anthony Towns had another monster offensive game (30 points to go with 15 boards) to keep the Wolves from getting totally blown out, but they were still down 11 at halftime and 10 at the end of the third quarter.
In the fourth, the Wolves got hot, much of it behind Zach LaVine, who scored 11 of his 25 points in the 4th on 5-8 from the field. In truth, we saw the strengths and weaknesses of LaVine's game on full display tonight: his shot making was on, and he finished 11-17 from the field, but he struggled defensively against stronger guards and with his awareness. The microcosm was late in the game, when he hit a go ahead three pointer, then gave the Wolves a three point lead with a spectacular drive and finish. On the next defensive possession, however, he got dragged way under a half-hearted screen by Ryan Anderson, leaving Eric Gordon open to hit the game tying three pointer. That was followed by a shooting foul on a Gordon drive that gave the Pels their last lead of the game.
Nevertheless, he was a huge factor in the Wolves coming back to win the game, and his shooting seems to be getting more consistent since he's been playing the off-guard position.
Let's bullet some points:
- The Wolves had 28 assists on 42 made field goals while shooting 50% from the floor. The ball movement was intermittent, but at times excellent.
- They took way too many long twos.
- Andrew Wiggins finished with 20 thanks to 10-10 from the line. He's good at drawing fouls, but his shot selection continues to frustrate. He takes a lot of bad shots.
- Gorgui Dieng made a key play late with a drive and finish to give the Wolves a 110-108 lead after he arguably committed an uncalled offensive foul. Al Gentry was not happy with that nor with a couple of other late calls that didn't go his way.
- Ryan Anderson and his ilk are the reason I don't know that the Towns-Dieng pairing is workable long term. Too many 4s out there with perimeter skills and I don't think either one of them is ideally suited to chase those guys around.
- For reasons that aren't clear to me since I was watching on mute, Shabazz Muhammad started the 2nd half in place of Zach LaVine, who had been quiet but not particularly egregious in the first half. I thought perhaps it was so LaVine could back up Rubio and they wouldn't have to use Tyus Jones who had nobody to guard in this one, but nope. Jones made a 2nd half appearance. LaVine wound up having a monster 2nd half, so I guess it worked.
- Nice to get a win tonight against an injured Pels team; the Wolves are in Dallas tomorrow to end their road trip.