The New Orleans Pelicans defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 114-99, pushing their record to 14-27 on the season. Anthony Davis finished with 35 points and seven rebounds for New Orleans. Andrew Wiggins finished with 21 points, four rebounds, two assists, and three steals for the Minnesota. New Orleans are now winners of three of its last four games, as the make a push for the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference.
For a split second, I thought I was going to be writing a recap for an L. The Pelicans defense looked bad, allowing Minnesota to complete just about any play they wanted to on offense. It started with a Kevin Garnett jumper, to a Karl-Anthony Towns three, to Ricky Rubio and Andrew Wiggins careening themselves into New Orleans' defense and getting to the line. Wiggins, of the four, would continue the onslaught as Minnesota scored 38 points in the first quarter and shot 72.2 percent from the floor.
The second quarter was more of regression to the mean for the New Orleans' offense, but the combination of Anthony Davis and Norris Cole helped matters. Cole was getting some impressive drives to the rim against Zach LaVine, while Anthony Davis, matched up with KAT, had some impressive finishes and knocked down several mid-range jumpers. He was the bright side of rather poor offensive performance for the Pels in the first half.
The second half saw a change in the Pelicans. Almost like someone got to them and told them to tighten up on defense. The rotations were more crisp, leaving Minnesota with a man and a contest for quite a few of their shot attempts. On the other side, New Orleans' offense was electric in the third. Eric Gordon knocked down a couple triples, a returning Tyreke Evans finished with seven points and two assists and Dante Cunningham nailed two threes and got an impressive steal and finish to seal a 31-point third for New Orleans.
By the fourth, the result between the Pelicans and T-Wolves was a foregone conclusion. New Orleans, thanks to the momentum of the third, rode a hot streak and Jrue Holiday and Davis combined for 22 points, turning a double-digit deficit into a double-digit victory.
Game Notes (including a sad one)
Eric Gordon finished with 11 points, knocked down three 3-pointers and even had three assists. That's the good. The bad is the fractured ring finger on his right hand.
Eric Gordon has a fracture in his ring finger on his shooting hand. No timetable to return per Alvin Gentry. Pelicans— Scott Kushner (@ScottDKushner) January 20, 2016
Dante Cunningham has become one of my favorite players on the Pelicans. Tonight, Cunningham had 10 points, two steals and four fouls No, he isn't great, but he brings energy and defense along the small forward through center positions. He's working on his corner three game to good results, so far. There are nights and moments where he doesn't bring much outside of energy, but if he can harness the three and hit 34 percent of them, that's a perfectly cromulent 9th man.
So, hey, I waited until the three note to get to Anthony Davis. 35 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Carried the offense early in the game and finished with a loud 12 points in the fourth. Sometimes, you need a loud game like this to remind people that you're one of the six best players in the league. Defensively, Davis was good, too. He had to switch on Towns at points in the second half and did great on the young big, contesting and forcing Towns to pump fake or even attempt some up-and-under moves to get a clear shot.
I mentioned that Tyreke Evans returned and he also had a solid game, finishing with 13 points, three rebounds and five assists. You saw his positives - providing a larger guard on the perimeter, probing and finding the open man, but you also saw some of the negatives - the effects of his injury didn't help his defense, though he tried and no threes. Still, a good return by Evans, and with the Gordon injury, he's going to be relied upon a bit more.
I want to see Davis vs. Towns for the next 10-15 years.
- We talked about how Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon and/or Tyreke Evans should be traded, but I'm not against an Alexis Ajinca move. He just never seems like a good fit and he's taking some bad jumpers. I was a big fan of playing him more because of his enormous wingspan and ability to block shots and finish with the "5 min, 4 points" statline. If I'm NOP, I look to move him for a lower level wing (Indiana, off top, has a handful of wings and could use another big.)