The New Orleans Pelicans have reached the final game of their six-game road trip, and it couldn’t come quickly enough for both the team and its fans.
New Orleans, losers of seven of its last eight games, heads into the Target Center to face the Minnesota Timberwolves Saturday night. The road trip has been disastrous to this point, with the Pelicans having just one victory to their credit.
Hopefully, the woeful Wolves provide a proper tonic for what has ailed New Orleans. Minnesota has lost 10 of its last 11, and are playing without All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns and forward Juan Hernangomez (Health and Safety Protocols).
The Wolves will also be playing the second night of a back-to-back, after falling 116-98 to the Atlanta Hawks on Friday.
When last we saw the Pelicans, they were walking off the court after a miserable effort against the Utah Jazz. New Orleans surrendered an early 17-point lead in less than a quarter. The team was tentative offensively, as well as both indecisive and indifferent on the defensive end.
The Jazz shot 50 pct from the floor and 43.6 pct from beyond the three-point line. In two games against the Pelicans, Utah converted 38 of their 86 three-point attempts (44.1%). New Orleans is 0-8 when allowing opponents to make at least 40 percent of their threes.
The Sacramento Kings are the only other team in the league with as many such games. For comparison, the Timberwolves have pulled off that trick six times.
So, even with Stan Van Gundy dedicating the entirety of Friday’s practice time to his defense, it seems unlikely that this game will be used for teaching purposes by either team.
With Towns sidelined, the Timberwolves will be taken as far as their backcourt of D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley will carry them. Russell is averaging 21.4 points, 5.6 assists, and 3.1 rebounds per game this season. He’s also making 41 percent of his three-point attempts so far.
Beasley has been solid since coming over from Denver last season. He ranks third on the team in scoring (19.1 ppg) and second in made threes (38).
Beyond them, the options are limited at best. Minnesota has the league’s 27th-rated offense and ranks 29th (-9.3) in net rating.
Anthony Edwards hasn’t been the offensive star that many predicted he would be coming out of Georgia. Edwards’ 11.6 ppg ranks first among all rookies, but it comes on 34.6 percent shooting (27.0 3P%).
Jarrett Culver and Ricky Rubio have misfired all season as well. Former LSU big man Naz Reid has been starting in Towns’ absence. Reid is an offensive threat in the post and can step outside, but hasn’t been a standout as either a rebounder or a defender.
On paper, this looks like the perfect matchup for the Pelicans. The only problem is, the Wolves have to be liking their chances of getting themselves back into a rhythm against New Orleans.
It doesn’t matter what it looks like, or how it happens, at this point the New Orleans Pelicans just need to get a win. Coming back 2-4 looks and feels much different than 1-5.
Who: New Orleans Pelicans (5-9) at Minnesota Timberwolves (3-11)
When: January 23, 7:00 p.m. Central
Where to watch: FSNO
Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM