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Game Preview #17: Wolves at Pelicans

The scorching hot Timberwolves are on the road for a quick trip down to New Orleans for a smoothie (and probably also a basketball game).

New Orleans Pelicans v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Game Info

Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (7-9) at New Orleans Pelicans (3-15)
When: 7:00pm CST
TV: Bally Sports North
Radio: 830 WCCO AM Radio
Line: Wolves -3.5

What To Watch For

Don’t look now, but the Minnesota Timberwolves currently have the third-longest (active) winning streak in the NBA. Yes, it’s just three games, but after a strong week of basketball against teams that the Wolves simply should be better than (Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, and Memphis Grizzlies), Minnesota suddenly finds themselves 10th in the Western Conference, just 2.5 games back of the 4-seed Dallas Mavericks.

Speaking of teams that the Wolves simply should be better than — ladies, and gentlemen, the New Orleans Pelicans! It’s been a fairly disastrous year for the Pelicans, starting with a less than ideal offseason that saw the team (essentially) swap out Lonzo Ball for Devonte’ Graham, and then swap big man Steven Adams for Jonas Valančiūnas. While the exchange of big men hasn’t been a complete disaster, the loss of Ball has really hurt, as Lonzo is thriving with his new team in Chicago and the Pelicans have been forced to rely on young players like Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kira Lewis, Jr. for all of their playmaking.

Not all is lost for the Pelicans — they are owed a handful of future first round picks from both the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers as part of the Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis trades, so there’s that (it should also be mentioned that both of those teams would go on to win a title after trading with New Orleans, so...). All of that remains ancillary though to the (literally) biggest story surrounding the team — the health of Zion. As we approach the quarter mark of the season, the former number one overall pick from Duke has not yet been cleared to workout with the team, which means the Pelicans are looking at another couple of weeks before they can get their (possibly) disgruntled star player back in the mix.

New Orleans Pelicans v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Flipping back to a less dysfunctional franchise — the Minnesota Timberwolves! As mentioned above, the Wolves currently sport the third-longest (active) winning streak in the NBA, and while last week’s schedule was fairly easy, the Wolves did finally do what we’ve been asking from them for days weeks months years lifetimes — beat the teams you’re supposed to be. Currently sitting at 7-9 (10th in the West), the Wolves could slingshot themselves up the standings even more with their fourth consecutive win tonight at the Smoothie King Center.

Injury Reports

As far as I can tell, both Josh Okogie and Naz Reid will truly be game-time decisions tonight. The Wolves have been able to replace Josh’s minutes with a mixture of Taurean Prince and extended time for Jaden McDaniels; however, in another physical matchup against Jonas Valančiūnas, Minnesota would be much better off if they had Naz Reid active rather than having to play small behind KAT.

As for the Pelicans, Zion Williamson is once again OUT as he recovers from foot surgery, and Devonte’ Graham is listed as QUESTIONABLE due to a foot injury.

Prediction time — I’ve been red hot with my picks lately, hitting on the Wolves upset over the Lakers as well as the Wolves covering against the Suns early last week at home. Minnesota is laying 3.5 points tonight on the road against the Pelicans, to which I say “like it? I LOVE it!” Of course there’s plenty of room for cynicism here, but it is possible that the Wolves truly flipped a switch this past week that will allow them to start beating the teams that Tristan Thompson would describe as “having no interest in winning basketball games.” Wolves 115, Pelicans 102.

As always, thanks for continuing to frequent Canis Hoopus and safe travels to all of you heading out for the Thanksgiving Day holiday. Go Wolves.