The Pelicans lost Sunday night, but it wasn't devastating as the Thunder also fell in their matchup with the Pacers. Now, it's onto Minnesota to face the Timberwolves in the second game of the Pelicans final back-to-back. On the season, New Orleans has won 9 such games so while the odds aren't great, they're not bad either.
The Pelicans have destroyed the Timberwolves twice at home and had a 92-84 win at their place back in late January. However, in that game, the Wolves had the services of Thad Young, Nikola Pekovic, Gorgui Dieng and Mo Williams. None of them will be in uniform Monday.
Yet, we don't want to completely belittle a team currently on a 10-game losing streak. They still have some firepower as evidenced in their last game (on the road) against the formidable Golden State Warriors. Zach LaVine went for 37 points, 6 threes, 9 rebounds and 4 assists and his fellow rookie teammate, Andrew Wiggins, chipped in with 17 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds and 3 steals.
The Wolves have talent even while shorthanded, but let's be real, this game should have victory written all over it for the Pelicans. The Wolves have had the worst defense all season, giving up 106.2 points on average to opponents. They give up the most points in the paint (47.9) and the highest FG% to opponents. Their offense is highly inefficient, ranking in the bottom third in rating, assist ratio and eFG%.
3 Keys to Victory
- Defend the rim. Omer Asik was the only player who attempted to dissuade Rockets around the rim last night. On the season, the Pelicans pitifully give up the 2nd most points in the paint to the opposition. At some point, they've got to take a stand. In particular, Anthony Davis needs to remember how he used to patrol the paint in Kentucky. It's nice that he cares about his assignment, but when Asik is off the floor, his primary goal has to be defending the rim.
- Dominate the paint. The Timberwolves will likely start Justin Hamilton and Adreian Payne. They're not exactly a picture of some intimidating defensive duo. AD and the rest of the team need to stuff it down their throats.
- Discourage LaVine. Zach LaVine is having his best month of his young career. In 6 games, he is averaging, 21.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.7 threes. He is shooting over 50% from the floor and 80% from the line. In essence, he's flying high so whoever draws the assignment needs to take it personally and clip his wings.