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Pelicans at Wolves: Going for the Sweep

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The Pels welcome Nikola Mirotic to the squad tonight as the Wolves look to sweep the season series.

Minnesota Timberwolves v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Pelicans at Wolves
8:00 pm CST
FS North

The Pelicans were dealt a tough blow last week when All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins went down with a ruptured Achilles tendon (Aside: If it weren’t for the Trojan War, we wouldn’t have these injuries) that will sideline him for the season.

The Pels promptly lost their first two games without him, but rebounded with a big win last night against the Oklahoma City Thunder in which Anthony Davis went off for 43 points. That win leaves the Pels as one of three Western Conference teams (Thunder, Blazers) sitting on 23 losses, one more than the Wolves who once again occupy the fourth spot all alone.

In the meantime, they have also completed a trade with the Bulls for power forward Nikola Mirotic. Mirotic, a skilled stretch four whose return from injury at least temporarily changed the Bulls season for the better, is expected to make his Pelicans debut tonight.

Much like the Wolves, the Pelicans are better on the offensive side (9th in Ortg) than on defense (22nd.) They play a much different style, however, pushing the pace (4th in the league) and looking for three pointers much more frequently. They struggle to rebound though, a problem that Cousins’ absence should only exacerbate, and with Cousins out, they have only two players (Davis at 8.0 and Jrue Holiday at 2.9) who attempt even one free throw per game. Losing easy points at the line is one of the biggest problems caused by this devastating injury.

Despite missing Cousins and on the second night of a back to back, the Pelicans remain dangerous, as the Thunder discovered last night. The Wolves, who have been excellent at home recently, cannot take this one lightly. Davis is is capable of winning games by himself, and their back court of Holiday and E’Twaun Moore is capable of big games as well. No doubt Mirotic will be looking to impress with his new team.

That said, the Wolves have beaten the Pels in the first three meetings of the season. In the first meeting, the Pels stifled Karl-Anthony Towns, but the Wolves bench had a very productive game. In the second meeting, Anthony Davis was ejected, and the Wolves cruised behind big games from Andrew Wiggins and Gorgui Dieng. The third game, and first at Target Center, featured the Wolves getting off to a hot start and never relinquishing control as Towns finally broke out with a big game against his Kentucky brethren.

The Wolves, who finally get multiple days off after tonight’s game for the first time since late December, have been terrific this season against teams just below them in the standings, with multiple wins against the Thunder, Pels, Blazers, Nuggets and Clippers. With the large group of teams at their heels, these games take on even more importance. Hopefully they can finish the season sweep against New Orleans tonight at Target Center.

Expected Lineups

Pelicans

Rajon Rondo
E’Twaun Moore
Jrue Holiday
Dante Cunningham
Anthony Davis

Wolves

Jeff Teague
Jimmy Butler
Andrew Wiggins
Taj Gibson
Karl-Anthony Towns

Our blogging buddies are over at The Bird Writes. Be excellent.

One final note: Some other pretty good games in the Association tonight. The Rockets are in Cleveland to face the Cavs in the ABC night game. (The Wolves next game is in Cleveland on Wednesday.) The suddenly hot (Rubio!) Jazz are at the Spurs. The Heat are in Detroit against Blake Griffin and the Pistons. The Sixers are at the Pacers.

A few tasty match-ups for your Saturday viewing.