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Wolves vs Pelicans: Someone Must Win

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Minnesota hosts the Pelicans in a matchup of two struggling teams

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Wolves vs Pelicans

7:00pm CST

FS North

It’s been a while since we last saw our Timberwolves, and it’s fair to say that both fans and the team itself each needed the mini-break.

The Wolves enter play this evening riding a 7-game losing streak. It’s been a pretty brutal stretch in almost every aspect, but mainly on the defensive end. We always knew this would be a flawed roster offensively, but I think we were all hopeful for a better, more cohesive unit on the less glamorous end of the floor this season. That hasn’t really happened, but there’s obviously still time to right the ship.

As much as the Wolves have struggled of late, some of it was predictable simply due to expected regression from the hot start. New Orleans, on the other hand, has been a bit harder to understand.

The Pelicans come in to the Twin Cities mired in their own long losing streak, currently sitting at 13 games. While the roster isn’t loaded with star talent,it’s hard to understand how this team is so bad. Their roster is not nearly as bad as their record would suggest. They’re currently only a game better than the injury ravaged Warriors for crying out loud.

This makes tonight’s game really interesting, at least in my eyes. The Wolves, for all their recent struggles, are still only one game out of the final playoff spot in the West. This is a prime spot to get back on track, at home, against a struggling team. This is a great opportunity to get this train moving back in the right direction.

On the other hand, it feels like it’s only a matter of time until there’s some sort of reverse regression with New Orleans. I mean, maybe they really are this broken, but a team with Jrue Holiday, Lonzo Ball, JJ Redick, and the much improved Brandon Ingram should not be this bad. They’ve been bit by the injury bug and are very thin up front, however.

Unfortunately, Karl-Anthony Towns is out tonight, so Minnesota will not be able to take advantage of this as much as they normally would. This goes without saying, but it’s always better to make sure KAT is healthy as opposed to chasing an extra regular season win this season. I’m sure Towns doesn’t see it the same way, and that’s part of why we love him, but if Gersson Rosas and Ryan Saunders are truly as invested in “process over results” this season they will prioritize KAT’s health. It’s good to see that’s the approach they’re taking.

This kind of goes without saying, but with Towns out, they’re going to need the best version of Andrew Wiggins tonight. It won’t be easy, as he’ll be hounded by the likes of Jrue, Lonzo, Josh Hart, etc for most of the evening.

Lastly, and I know this sounds like a broken record, but I’ll be watching Jeff Teague’s usage. The Athletic’s Britt Robson did a fantastic piece on Teague’s “new” role since moving to the bench (hint: it isn’t very new at all), and I’d implore anyone who hasn’t read it yet to take the time to do so. Moving JFT to the bench is pointless if he’s still going to play mostly starter minutes with all of the other starts he used to line-up next to. Let’s actually play him with the bench guys, preferably without Shabazz Napier also on the court, and see what happens.

One last thing, the Pelicans visiting the Target Center brings back good memories from last season. It didn’t last, but one of the most fun Wolves wins of last season came when New Orleans visited the Target Center shortly after the Jimmy Butler trade. KAT and Andrew Wiggins looked ready to take the next step. The Towns block leading to the Wiggins and-one slam (~3:15 mark of clip below) was one of the best quick series of last season. Here’s to hoping tonight provides some of the same feelings, even without Towns out there.

Projected Lineups

Pelicans

Lonzo Ball

Jrue Holiday

Brandon Ingram

Kenrich Williams

Derrick Favors

Wolves

Jarrett Culver

Josh Okogie

Andrew Wiggins

Robert Covington

Gorgui Dieng

Blogging buddies: The Bird Writes. Be excellent.