The Pelicans made it! After playing a brutal schedule to open the season, the Pelicans now get their second easy game in a row against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Blind Leading The Blind
The national narrative on the Timberwolves going into this season was that they were going to be "The Fun Young Team" to watch this year. Keep #leaguepassalert on hand at all times. Welp that is false. The Timberwolves are a young team, but they are led by some fairly average older players. Their leading scorers are Kevin Martin (that guy we almost got instead of EG), Thaddeus Young, and Nikola Pekovic. Instead of the "Big Three", the T-Wolves have the "Blase Three".
The Timberwolves do have some very interesting young players. I LOVE Gorgui Dieng. He isn’t stellar on the defensive side of the ball, but in a couple of years he has the potential to be Brook Lopez lite. Dieng’s offensive game is already extremely polished.
Andrew Wiggins has played about how everyone predicted: he is pretty miserable on offense but already a terror on the defensive side of the ball. Think MKG 2.0. Perhaps the most intriguing young prospect on the Timberwolves is Anthony Bennett. For the past two years, he has been trying hard to fight off the bust label. Turns out, Bennett was more like Mr. Magoo than a bust. Apparently, he did not see so well and recently had laser eye surgery to correct that issue. As it turns out, being able to see stuff helps your game. Thus, it is no surprise that Bennett’s game has dramatically improved.
The Pelicans are teetering. The Pelicans have looked confused about whether they want to make the leap this year. Their schedule hasn’t helped. Out of the Pelicans first seven games, the Pelicans have played five teams who made the playoffs last season, going 2-3. If the Pelicans want to be one of those playoff teams, as Chris Cucchiara explained on Tuesday, this game is a must win.
The Pelicans have the best player on the floor, Anthony Davis. They also have the second best player on the floor in Jrue Holiday. For those reasons alone, the Pelicans should run away with this game. Still, the Pelicans will have to get contributions from their role players, particularly Austin Rivers, if they want to win.
Tyreke Evans will have another tough matchup. He won’t have to work too hard on defense, but Wiggins has the athleticism to stifle Tyreke’s drives to the paint. Plus, Tyreke is already struggling to make layups. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Monty utilize Tyreke as a third option, instead of his normal role as the second option.
Hand Down - Man Down
The Timberwolves are playing a man down. Ricky Rubio, the T-Wolves quasi-star point guard, is expected to be out due to a severe high ankle sprain. In his place, the T-Wolves are starting rookie Zach LaVine. In his first start, LaVine scored five points on 40% shooting from the floor.
He didn't play any better last night against Houston going 2/9 from the field. The book on him is a pretty good athlete but plays without any sort of control or finesse. He is a taller point guard who might offer some match-up problems with other teams, but is not a player that should cause the Pelicans concern. Jrue Holiday is almost as tall and an absolute bulldog on the ball. Jrue should dominate.
Ricky Rubio (finishing a "really big, like a thousand pieces" puzzle) is expected to be sidelined for the next 7-8 weeks.— NBA Injury Report (@NBAInjuryR3port) November 9, 2014
Three Keys to Victory
- Austin Rivers - The Pelicans will have to hold Kevin Martin in check to win this game. The guy who should be getting this assignment is Austin Rivers. Rivers has played well this season. If he continues to play well this game, the Pelicans don’t have any excuse for losing.
- Fouls - Anthony Davis is by far the best player on the court. For that reason, Davis should play conservatively. An easy way for the Timberwolves to level the playing field would be to draw fouls on Davis and have him spend significant minutes on the bench. If that happens, all bets are off.
- Free Throws - The Pelicans aren’t playing the Cleveland Referees on Friday, so they may actually get some foul calls. We have seen this team struggle to hit free throws. The easiest way to blow a game against a team you should beat is to miss free throws. Pelicans need to hit their free throws to win. It’s sad that we have to worry about that.
Note: I will be at the game! I’ll be hitting social media hard with photos and videos. Follow me on twitter @jdbillio to see said content.