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Wolves at Pelicans: Zion-Mania

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The Wolves get their first look at the remarkable rookie.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Wolves at Pelicans
7:00 pm CST
FS North

There are a couple of interesting young teams in the Western Conference that are fighting for the last playoff spot. One of them, the Memphis Grizzlies, currently occupy that spot behind a group of young players including rookies Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke, and the unfortunately injured Jaren Jackson.

Tonight’s opponent, the New Orleans Pelicans, are currently in 10th in the West, but have been rising steadily after a 7-23 start. They have gone 19-11 since then, and welcomed rookie Zion Williamson back from injury.

Williamson is, of course, the story. What he’s doing as a rookie is unprecedented. He’s averaging 30 points per 36 minutes, and how he’s doing it is remarkable. He’s carrying a 31 percent usage rate while taking 77 percent of his shots within three feet of the basket. That is incredible. He is absolutely relentless attacking the rim, and is so powerful and explosive that he’s almost impossible to keep contained.

In addition to Williamson’s around the basket stylings, the Pels are also third in the league in three point percentage while taking the 6th most per game. J.J. Redick (45 percent on 6.4 attempts per game) and Brandon Ingram (39 percent on 6.3 attempts per game) lead a pretty deep group of three point shooters, along with Lonzo Ball who has shown real improvement from deep.

Given the Wolves porous defense and the fact that these are two of the faster paced teams in the league, expect a ton of points in this one. It’s hard to see how the Wolves will slow these guys down, but the Pels do turn it over a lot, something the Wolves will have to take advantage of if they want to stay in the game. Another key for the Wolves will be protecting their defensive glass, something that has been a problem in several recent contests. The Pels are good at generating second shots, especially Williamson, who averages over three offensive boards a game, and regularly finishes them with ferocious signature dunks.

The Pelicans size is going to be an issue tonight. They start the 6’9” Ingram at small forward, and have two legitimate big men who can dominate the paint in Williamson and Derrick Favors. It’s going to be very tough for the Wolves with Josh Okogie, Juancho, and Naz Reid trying to contend with that group.

The Wolves will see the Pelicans twice in the next few days, with a rematch back at Target Center on Sunday. Hopefully they can compete with an energetic team that is on the rise and fighting for a playoff spot.

Expected Lineups

Pelicans

Jrue Holiday
Lonzo Ball
Brandon Ingram
Zion Williamson
Derrick Favors

Wolves

D’Angelo Russell
Malik Beasley
Josh Okogie
Juan Hernangomez
Naz Reid

Our friends over at The Bird Writes have the Pelicans story. Be excellent.