Back in December, the Pelicans dropped a couple of games inside the Smoothie King Center to the Timberwolves. In the first matchup, New Orleans nearly pulled off the come from behind victory, but the offense stalled over the final two minutes and watched Jimmy Butler propel Minnesota to the win. The second go-round had no such drama. Anthony Davis was ejected in the second quarter after picking up two separate technical fouls within seconds of each other, and the Pelicans promptly fell apart.
Although this next matchup will be played on Minnesota’s turf, New Orleans has a couple of things going for them. The Timberwolves will be on the second night of a back-to-back, where they’ve compiled a 2-4 record on the season in such games. Minnesota’s starters played a full accompaniment of minutes in a loss to the Boston Celtics on Friday night, with Karl-Anthony Towns clocking in a team-high 42 minutes.
After beating the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, New Orleans has had a couple of days off and will be well rested. They’re 5-2 on the season when they’ve had at least several days off in between games.
Will the rest advantage overcome Minnesota’s enviable 13-6 home record?
Three Keys to Victory
Protect the basketball. Since the start of December, no team has forced as many turnovers as the Timberwolves. They’ve been particular effective over the last five games, creating an average of 18 turnovers a game. I shouldn’t have to remind anyone of just how mistake prone New Orleans has normally been, which has directly led to a lot of easy scoring opportunities for opponents. The Pelicans are 7-12 on the season when recording 16 or more turnovers in a game. Be boring and choose to attack in the fastbreak wisely!
Keep tabs on Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins. KAT has not figured prominently in the season series, but Minny’s wings have given New Orleans grief. Wiggins and Butler will be asked to shoulder even more of a load with Jeff Teague out so the help defense has to be ready to assist Jrue Holiday, E’Twaun Moore and anyone else Alvin Gentry assigns to guard the Timberwolves dynamic wings.
Don’t reach, move your feet. They don’t rely on the three-ball, but Minnesota is excellent at getting to the free throw line. Reduce the number of freebies by limiting the Timberwolves to one shot per possession, not allowing Wiggins or Butler into the paint, and above all else, not committing any silly personal fouls through the course of the game!
What: New Orleans Pelicans at Minnesota Timberwolves
Where: Target Center Arena
When: January 6, 2018, 8:00 p.m. Central
How: FSNO, WRNO 99.5 FM