After a heartbreaking loss to Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks last night, the Minnesota Timberwolves will look to get back on track in a Western Conference battle against the New Orleans Pelicans at Target Center.
The Wolves, free of the tyranny that is Tom Thibodeau, have looked like a much more well-run unit over the first two games of the Ryan Saunders era, but they will have to continue to turn their happiness into wins. Tonight, they will be facing a Pelicans team who ousted them less than a month ago without their superstar Anthony Davis.
This time around the Pels will have Davis, and look to be completely healthy for the first time all season. When their two-way monster is joined by point guard Elfrid Payton, New Orleans hold a 8-2 win-lost record, including 4-1 since Payton rejoined the team in the last game against Minnesota.
In that five-game span, they have registered a blistering 126.7 offensive rating (2nd best in the league) and a +16.0 net rating (2nd best in the league as well). With Payton taking some of the ball-handling responsibilities from Jrue Holiday, the Pelcians play a more up-tempo, free-flowing brand of basketball. Those two guards take some of the focus away from Davis and Julius Randle, who in turn dominate their positions.
It will be especially dangerous for Minnesota, who showed last night that they are still susceptible to an off-night defensively. Minnesota gave up 119 points last night with a matching 119 defensive rating, too often Dallas were allowed open shooters and free runs to the rim — a recipe for disaster.
Offensively, the Wolves have looked much crisper since Thibs’ reign of terror ended. They seem to be pushing the pace more often, moving the ball instead of settling for isolation buckets, and involving Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins more often. Good signs all-round.
Towns, who will keep his iron man streak of 288 straight games since entering the league alive despite turning his ankle last night, has been on a tear recently:
Karl-Anthony Towns has posted a double-double in eight of the last nine games, averaging 27.6 points, 15.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.67 blocks over that stretch.— Timberwolves PR (@Twolves_PR) January 12, 2019
Derrick Rose returned last night and scored 21 points (including some big buckets down the stretch), but he will be out with the ankle issue on the back-to-back. That will mean increased minutes for Tyus Jones, Josh Okogie and Anthony Tolliver. None of which Wolves fans will complain about.
If Minnesota can stifle the Pelicans’ high-velocity offense, they have a chance to keep themselves within striking distance of the playoffs. However, going up against a team with the same record and in excellent form, tonight will be a battle.
Head over to friends at The Bird Writes for all your Pelicans info.