Four days ago, the Pelicans lost to the Rockets and conceivably could have sat 4.5 games out of the 8th spot in the Western Conference by days end. Fortunately for New Orleans, the Thunder would go on to lose their matchup against the Spurs, and with another loss last night to the Jazz combined with the Pelicans win Friday, New Orleans is back to within 2.5 games of landing that elusive position in the standings.
Today, the Pelicans will seek to maintain their climb up the standings with a win over the Timberwolves. Since New Orleans last faced Minnesota (back on January 23rd), the Wolves are a markedly different team. Thaddeus Young and Mo Williams have left for greener pastures and Nikola Pekovic has been sidelined for most of this month. In addition, the returns of Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin from nagging injuries have been up in the air for some time now. Not surprisingly, the Wolves have posted a record of 3-11 for the month of March. A schedule break!?
The Youth is here
In the Wolves last game against the Rockets, their starting lineup's average age was 22.6; however, don't take this to mean the team has been woefully inept. Since Zach LaVine moved into the starting lineup, the Wolves have had the 15th best offense. The two 20-year olds (LaVine and Wiggins) have led the charge combining for over 35 points, 9 rebounds and 6.5 assists.
3 Keys to Victory
- Attack, attack, attack! Over the last several weeks, the Pelicans offense has gone into a funk, ranking 24th in terms of efficiency. During the same stretch, the Timberwolves defense has been the 2nd worst in the league. Thus, today's game represents a wonderful opportunity to get back on track.
- Pound the glass. In the past fortnight, the Wolves have been the worst defensive rebounding team (69.5%). Outside of the guards, the rest of the Pelicans should look to crash the offensive glass repeatedly and often.
- Force turnovers. Fielding a young team, Minnesota has been prone to plenty of mistakes. The Pelicans need to take advantage of their 4th worst turnover ratio over the span of their last 8 games.
As New Orleans did Friday, the team needs to continue to take care of business if they want to have any hope of a postseason berth. Before long, the schedule will turn tough again, but hopefully by then, the Pelicans will have completely closed the gap with the Thunder who are in the midst of facing 7 straight difficult opponents.