2:30 pm CST
Fox Sports North
For the second straight Sunday, the Minnesota Timberwolves will play host to a matinee game, this time against the suddenly struggling New Orleans Pelicans. The Wolves looked hungover and lethargic last Sunday when they got spanked by the Dallas Mavericks, and will look to secure a rare home win (currently 8-23 at Target Center) before heading out on a six game road trip.
After losing 18 of a possible 19 games, the Wolves have righted the ship in a sense, winning three of their last six games and displaying (brief) flashes of what the future could look like for this team (at least on the offensive end). Outside of a forgettable performance on Friday against the Orlando Magic, D’Angelo Russell has already shown in his brief stint with Minnesota the type of offensive firepower the franchise has severely lacked for basically all of it’s existence. Russell’s back court buddy Malik Beasley has been nothing short of a revelation, averaging 22 points in his 12 games since coming over from Denver, and is shooting 50% from the field (including 43% from three). Beasley’s emergence as a fringe star has been one of the few positive story lines to come out of another disappointing season, and while the 23-year old has done everything in his power to secure a healthy pay raise this summer, it’ll be interesting to see just how far Rosas & Co. will go when it comes to negotiating a long-term deal.
Finally, you can’t talk about the Minnesota Timberwolves without mentioning their defense, which has been downright embarrassing all season. Since their Extreme Roster Makeover during the week of the NBA Trade Deadline, the Wolves have posted the league’s worst defensive rating (117.4) and are giving up far and away the most points in the paint (57.3). While it’s not like the Wolves were the ‘63 Boston Celtics even when Karl-Anthony Towns was healthy, it is hard to get a true picture of what the team could/would look like until he returns to the lineup (although, I think many of us have an educated guess).
It’s easy to joke about the Wolves being “Houston North,” but at the end of the day I refuse to believe that Rosas and his staff think they can build a consistent winning team that’s only focus is on the offensive end. Minnesota now has far and away their most scoring power the franchise has seen in over a decade, but for this thing to truly turn the corner, the New Wolves Order will need to prioritize building around their two (or maybe three?) stars with guys who can get stops and protect the rim, even if that means pivoting a bit from the “system” they have talked so much about since their arrival last May.
But fixing the defense can wait for another day (or another month). For now, the only concerns today are remembering to set your clocks ahead, enjoying the first signs of spring, and getting anther up-close experience of the Zion Williamson show.
Happy International Women’s Day!
Projected Starting Lineups
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Malik Beasley
SF: Josh Okogie
PF: Juancho Hernangomez
C: Naz Reid
New Orleans Pelicans
PG: Jrue Holiday
SG: Lonzo Ball
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Zion Williamson
C: Derrick Favors
As for the Wolves injury report: