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NBA Preview: Pelicans must overcome self-defeating behavior against Timberwolves

If New Orleans is to leave Minnesota victorious, they’ll first have to master what they can control

NBA: Preseason-New Orleans Pelicans at Minnesota Timberwolves Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans face off against the Minnesota Timberwolves Saturday and will be looking for their first win of the season. We won’t be the ones to shortchange you here as New Orleans has faced multiple struggles thus far, fitting in new faces and looking to overcome recent injuries.

The second game of a back-to-back won’t be easy against a Minnesota team that looks energized and ready to possibly take a step forward in the Western Conference.

So after the first two games, and the lack of man power, how can the Pelicans come through with a possible victory, or at worst make it a competitive game down the stretch? No worries we got you covered.

Keys to victory

We could talk about the Timberwolves. Karl-Anthony Towns is a outstanding player, and Anthony Edwards may be the next phenom. We know what D’Angelo Russell can do offensively. Malik Beasley can ball, and Josh Okogie can defend. But this Pelicans team’s success isn’t as much about their opponent as it’s about the elements they can currently control. That’s our focus, for now.

Turnovers

We wish this wasn’t a reoccurring thing. We wish we didn’t have to talk about turnovers every season, but here we are. The Pelicans are in a position where they almost have to play perfect against certain opponents.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Chicago Bulls David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

That task gets broader in difficulty when the basketball isn’t being taken care of, especially the unforced type of errors. New Orleans is already without important players, they can’t make their hill to climb steeper, especially on the road.

Slow Starts

We’ve seen this dating back to the preseason where New Orleans simply can’t make the shots needed to get off to a fast start. A deficit later follows, several attempts at a comeback are presented, but it ultimately ends up being not enough. With a bench that’s struggling, the Pelicans will need to get into a good rhythm offensively early. They can’t afford to be facing another second quarter trailing, depending on a bench that has so far been nonexistent.

Find balance between your best players

If the Pelicans are to win basketball games, they’ll need good performances from Brandon Ingram, Jonas Valanciunas, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker. And they’ll probably need several games where they all play well.

NBA: Preseason-New Orleans Pelicans at Utah Jazz Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Two games in, we haven’t been able to see that. Maybe they’ll have to move NAW back to the bench temporarily, maybe they’ll have to change their offensive approach early and play more of a two-man game between BI and JV. Either way, those three are your best players right now, and NOLA will eventually need them firing on all cylinders if they plan on beating competitive basketball teams right now.

Play hard all the way through

As was mentioned earlier, New Orleans can’t afford many unforced errors right now. Basically, that’s a part of them needing to flourish in the areas they can control. Effort on both sides of the floor is included, communication, as well as attention to detail.

The most important part of this roster isn’t available, and that creates quite the hole for New Orleans. But a hole they can’t have any excuse right now is their fight, will, and energy. It may be their only chance at getting quality victories as long as big Z is sidelined.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (0-2) at Minnesota Timberwolves (1-0)

When: October 23, 7:00 p.m. Central

Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans

Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @Impatientbull.