Heading into the second night of a road back to back, it appeared the Wolves caught a break when Anthony Davis was a late scratch. A huge game from Julius Randle and hot three point shooting, however, saw the Pelicans grab their first win without Davis this season, 123-114.
The Wolves struggled badly offensively in the first half, shooting under 40 percent. Their offense came alive in the second, but they were never able to stop the Pelicans consistently enough to grab control of the game. The Pelicans seemingly were able to find a three pointer whenever they needed it, and this was the big difference in the game, with the Pels shooting 14-25 from beyond the arc to the Wolves 9-28.
Still, though a loss is a loss, there were a few decent things to take out of the game. The Wolves were down 12 at halftime and it could have been worse, but they used their penchant for forcing turnovers to stay in it despite awful shooting. They came out with significantly more sharpness in the second half, and dominated the third quarter behind Karl-Anthony Towns, and actually took a lead into the fourth. But the second night in a row with heavy minutes took it’s toll, and the Wolves shot only 8-21 in the final frame.
Towns had another big night, finishing with 28 and 17 despite not shooting very well (10-23 from the floor.) He added six assists and five blocks for his second straight quad nickel, and really tried to will the team to another win. He simply did not have enough left in the tank late in the game.
It was another start and another strong effort from Tyus Jones as well, who finished with 15 points, 13 assists, and zero turnovers. The guy just makes good things happen. The entire starting lineup had positive plus-minus numbers (led by Taj Gibson who had 17 points on a perfect 6-6 from the field.) It was really the bench minutes that hurt the Wolves, as other than Gorgui Dieng, nobody could get into a rhythm. The Wolves went with a Bayless-Okogie-Covington-Saric-Dieng lineup at a couple of points, and it was disastrous as nobody could score.
Defensively the Wolves struggled throughout, especially in the first half in transition, when the Pels consistently beat them down the floor and the Wolves weren’t able to match up with shooters. Later, they cleaned up some of the defensive problems in the paint, but continued to allow clean looks from three that the Pels were consistently knocking down.
Ultimately it’s disappointing to lose to a struggling team that is missing it’s MVP level player, but this was a schedule loss, and given the surprise win in Miami on Sunday, I can’t be too upset. Towns is clearly committed to raising his game and taking on the burden for this team, we’ve seen Jones turn in two terrific performances in a row as the starter, and it’s been refreshing to witness something other than ISO ball over the last couple of games.
The Wolves are off tomorrow before concluding this road trip in Boston on Wednesday.