MINNEAPOLIS — The Wolves entered Thursday’s home matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans having taken care of the Milwaukee Bucks on the same floor just two nights before. Tonight, another star-studded crowd packed Target Center to watch Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns and the Wolves take on Anthony Davis’ Pelicans.
It was the first game in a Pelicans uniform for Nikola Mirotic, who was traded south from the Chicago Bulls earlier this week. The 6’10 stretch forward proved his worth tonight coming up with 18 points on 6-13 from the floor (3-8 from deep) and 12 rebounds in the loss.
Tonight’s game was about the three all-stars on the floor. After a quick start in which Towns and Taj Gibson’s prowess on the offensive glass drove the Wolves to a 9-0 lead with 9:50 remaining in the first, Pelican’s head coach Alvin Gentry was forced to take an early timeout.
Davis proceeded to come up with some easy baskets taking advantage of a Wolves transition defense that was a step slow, but the Wolves punched back with a slew of makes that got every one of the starters on the board. The lead grew to 22-6 with 5:37 remaining; Gentry took another timeout.
But after the break, Davis demonstrated why he is widely considered the best big man in the NBA. He scored 15 points in just over five minutes, from all over to floor, to bring the Pelicans to within eight at the end of the first.
To start the second, a unit comprised of bench players and Andrew Wiggins spurred a run that drove the Wolves’ lead back to 15 before Towns and Jeff Teague re-entered the game. Remarking on that stretch after the game, coach Thibodeau agreed. “The bench played really good in the second quarter. I thought that was huge.”
The star of the second quarter was Tyus Jones, who ended the half with 8 points on 3-3 from the floor. It was the most confidence he’s shown in his jump shot so far this season. But Butler and Towns ultimately delivered the Wolves’ 66-53 halftime lead. Butler shined with 16 points, five rebounds and two assists while Towns notched his league leading 47th double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds before the break.
The Wolves opened the second half with a 10-4 run that saw their lead grow to 19. Davis and Mirotic tried desperately to keep the Pelicans within shouting distance throughout the third, and Towns’ ended the quarter with an emphatic put-back slam followed by a shout out to his home-town Philadelphia Eagles, who will compete in tomorrow’s Super Bowl.
Karl-Anthony Towns comes flying in from the arc for the follow up slam. pic.twitter.com/S4MpXfQOCr— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) February 4, 2018
The Wolves entered the fourth quarter with a 14 point lead. While they mostly managed to hold that cushion—never allowing the game to get back within single digits—the Pelicans fought just hard enough to keep it competitive until the final buzzer. The game ended 118-107.
After another wire-to-wire victory, the Wolves can enjoy Super Bowl Sunday having polished off two consecutive playoff caliber opponents.
Butler paced the Wolves with 30 points on 11-21 from the floor and 2-4 from three – he also notched 8 rebounds and seven assists to cap off yet another fantastic all around game. And Towns was no second fiddle; he finished the win with 22 points on 8-16 shooting and a perfect 3-3 from beyond the arc. With 16 rebounds tonight, Towns is now averaging 13.7 in 17 games since January 5th.
On Towns’ performance, Thibodeau said after the game that “he played very aggressively, the rebounding was terrific and he was active.”
After another entertaining victory, the Wolves will take advantage of a well deserved three days off. They return to action on Wednesday night in Cleveland, looking to take advantage of a Cavaliers team that continues to struggle.
- Jimmy Butler’s 30 point night means that he has put up 20+ in eight consecutive contests. He has now led the Wolves in scoring in 18 of his last 22 games.
- Karl-Anthony Towns continues to be a double-double machine, and his six offensive rebounds were key in retaining the Wolves momentum throughout the night.
- The Wolves won their 12th consecutive game at home, a streak that now stretches back to before Christmas. After the game, Towns remarked on another win at home: “our fans are amazing. I just think that we’re executing at a high level when we’re here at home. Defensively we’re really good and offensively we usually never have problems.”
- Tyus Jones was a key contributor off of the bench in what ended up being one of his best offensive performances of the season. Jones finished the night with 15 points on 6-9 from the floor, knocking down one of his two 3-point attempts.
- Anthony Davis finished with 38 points and nine rebounds. He was 16-30 from the floor but his individual brilliance was not enough to come out with a victory in the end
- With a Wolves win and a Spurs loss tonight, the Wolves move back within .5 games of the third seed in the Western Conference. The Spurs are also off until Wednesday night when they’ll take on the Suns in Phoenix.