The Pelicans play the season finale tonight against the Timberwolves, losers of 3 of their last 4. In our first two meetings, New Orleans lost both times in Minneapolis, but I'm going to wager Friday's game will result in a different outcome.
First, Nikola Pekovic will be out with injury. Second, Kevin Love, even if he's able to suit up, could be hindered by stiffness in his neck after a hard fall Tuesday which caused him to miss Wednesday's tip against the Thunder. Third, hopeful-All-Star Anthony Davis will be raring to put on a show as he missed the last match-up and, perhaps more importantly, Adam Silver is yet to name a replacement for Kobe Bryant.
Three keys to the game:
- Push the pace. Against the Hawks, we preached to slow down the pace. Tonight, the opposite. Minnesota is heavily reliant on their starters (account for 80 points a game). Without Pekovic and possibly a less than 100% Love, it would serve the Pelicans well for the Timberwolves to play their sub-par bench heavy minutes.
- Win the paint battle. As mentioned, the Wolves will be missing their usual front court rotation so rebounds and points-in-the-paint are legitimately up for grabs. Ronny Turiaf and Gorqui Dieng can't provide even half of what Pekovic typically produces so let's take advantage.
- Get to the charity stripe. Usually, the Timberwolves enjoy a healthy free throw advantage, even on the road (about 8 attempts). If Tyreke Evans is able to play, this disparity will be significantly lessened; however, if he's sidelined, the Pels need to ensure they do not settle for jump shots. Hopefully, Davis decides to lead by example.