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Game Preview: Timberwolves at Pelicans
Sunday, March 19, 2017 at 5:00 p.m. at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana
The Timberwolves enter tonight on the heels of a minor skid. They’ve lost 3 of their last 4 games, and Nemanja Bjelica is out for the remainder of the season with a left foot injury. What little hope the Timberwolves had to make a late season push are all but dashed at this point. ESPN’s BPI odds has the team with a 2% chance of overtaking Denver for the 8th seed. With 14 games left in the season, it might be time for the Minnesota brass to take a step back and begin to address roster needs going into the offseason. We’ll see how tonight plays out.
New Orleans is essentially in the same boat. A half game behind the Timberwolves, the Pelicans were involved in the biggest trade at the deadline this year for Demarcus Cousins. A seemingly last ditch effort for playoff relevancy, the Pels are 5-7, with two of their wins coming when Cousins sits. The team has the talent, but is still figuring out how to mesh. Gorgui and Towns might have some problems defending against the two bigs down low.
PG: Ricky Rubio #9
SG: Brandon Rush #4
SF: Andrew Wiggins #22
PF: Gorgui Dieng #5
C: Karl-Anthony Towns #32
PG: Jrue Holiday
SG: Soloman Hill
SF: Dante Cunningham
PF: Anthony Davis
C: Demarcus Cousins
Timberwolves: Nikola Pekovic – out/season (recurring ankle pain), Zach Lavine – out/season (Torn left ACL), Nemanja Bjelia – out/season (foot), Lance Stephenson – day-to-day (ankle)
Pelicans: Demarcus Cousins – day-to-day (knee/ribs), Omer Asik – out (illness)
Minnesota has struggled against the Pelicans since the early beginnings of this current roster. They’ve faced them twice this season already and lost both of them.
The first meeting was an utter beatdown, and went in the same direction as one’s previously: Anthony Davis put up a monster line and no one could contain him. He posted 45-10-3 on .630 shooting. Terrence Jones complimented him nicely from the bench, scoring an additional 17 in a game where no else needed to do much. Zach Lavine had a decent night, scoring 26 points, but only shot 1-5 from 3. This is one of the few times Towns wasn’t able to score in double figures this season, going 9-11-3 for the night. The less said the better. Pelicans win 117-96.
The two teams’ second meeting was just as drastic and one-sided as the first. Anthony Davis once again put up a monster line of 42-13-2, and this time he had the help of Jrue Holiday from the perimeter, who went 25-6-12. Both Holiday and Davis shot better than .700 from the field. Rubio-Wiggins-Towns each had unbelievable games, but they were the only 3 who showed up. Are lack of a bench hurt us in this one, with the entire second unit chipping in a measly 9 points. Pelicans win another, 122-106.
If Minnesota wants one iota of a chance they need to learn how to contain Anthony Davis. Typically, teams are able to beat the Pelicans by raining down an assault from 3-point land, something that just isn’t in Minnesota’s arsenal at this point. With Rubio playing so well on the offensive end he may force Holiday to play more honest, and with the Pelican’s gigantic back-court Minnesota should have the speed advantage along the perimeter, but if The Wolves aren’t able to keep up in the scoring column with the Pelicans this could get ugly fast. Minnesota has struggled against physical teams like this in the past, let’s hope tonight is different.
Fox Sports North – Dave Benz (play-by-play), Jim Peterson (analyst)
Radio: 830 WCCO-AM – Alan Horton (play-by-play)
(All stats found on nba.com, and basketball-reference.com)