At long last our collective nightmare has ended.
The New Orleans Pelicans snapped their franchise-worst 13 game losing streak with a 107-99 road victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. In doing so, they also passed ownership of the NBA’s longest current losing streak to the T-Wolves, who have now dropped eight in a row.
Brandon Ingram led the way with 34 points, including 25 in the first half. He flat-out looked the part of a superstar at times, getting the Pelicans off to a good start in the first quarter and then scoring five of the team’s final seven points to sew up the victory.
Jrue Holiday finished with 18, and Lonzo Ball came off the bench to provide 10 points, six rebounds, and six assists.
Andrew Wiggins had 27 points in the losing effort to lead the Timberwolves.
Karl-Anthony Towns missed the game for Minnesota but, as the Pelicans have seen time and time again, in this league no one cares who you’re missing.
On the second night of a back-to-back, Alvin Gentry opened up his rotation to keep his team fresh. Ten out of the 11 players who saw action played 10 minutes or more.
The strong defensive performance from Tuesday night’s loss to Brooklyn got an encore in the Target Center, as the Pelicans held the Timberwolves to 38 percent shooting from the floor. Over its last two games, New Orleans has the league’s third-best defensive rating at 99.5.
’’We had four days off, they’re on a back-to-back, but you would think it was the other way around if you watched the game,’’ said Wiggins. ‘’They played harder than us. They got more of the loose balls. They played like they wanted it more.’’
The Pelicans did want it more, and with good reason. It had been 26 days since the last time New Orleans had tasted something other than defeat. And after losing in seemingly every possible manner during the ill-fated stretch, the Pelicans appeared determined to not let this one get away, as so many others had previously.
’’We were tired, but I thought we just kind of grinded it out,’’ Gentry said. ‘’We talked about playing blue-collar desperate. We had to be the most desperate team, not just in this game tonight, but the most desperate team in the league.’’
That desperation played out through the defense, which moved with more purpose. Shots were contested, passing lanes were challenged, and the Pels did a great job defending the boards.
New Orleans held a 55-43 rebounding advantage. The return of Derrick Favors continues to have a big positive impact on the team as he grabbed 11 boards in only 20 minutes, and moving forward the expectation is his minutes will soon increase, provided his body responds well to the physical grind.
One down, three to go on this road trip for the New Orleans Pelicans. Up next, they’ll tackle the Warriors in San Francisco tomorrow night. Can the Pels make it two in a row considering Golden State sits in the cellar of the Western Conference?
Quite possibly, yes.