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NBA Preview: Pelicans battle Timberwolves again, hoping to clean up mistakes

Brandon Ingram putting up numbers, but team still needs first win of season

New Orleans Pelicans v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Yeah, it’s the Timberwolves again.

After losing to Minnesota 96-89 on Saturday night, the Pelicans again take on their northerly neighbors hoping for the first win of the season. New Orleans is already 0-3 with Zion Williamson’s return still too far away to see straight. Minny is 2-0 and feeling good.

The Pels have thus far committed too many turnovers to remain close — don’t let your eyes fool you, the Pelicans have played worse than their final box score would indicate across three full games so far. Just Friday night, the Pels turned it over 30 times, including seven from main man Brandon Ingram. So far, the Pels rank 3rd from last in total turnovers and 3rd from last in 2-point field goal shooting percentage.

Last game also saw terrible shooting from starters Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Devonte’ Graham, and Herb Jones combining to go 9-of-44. NAW was 2-of-13 from 3; Graham was 1-of-10.

On the bright side, Ingram is shooting 49.3% from the field, including 46.2 from 3. He’s averaging 27 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists per game so far. There’s still quite a bit of labored mid-range shot finding and attempting from BI, but what other options are there?! So far, the other offensive tent-poles (Zion, Graham, JV, NAW) are missing in action in one way or another.

Jonas Valanciunas (15.7 points, 12.3 rebounds), the new man in the middle, is a skilled yet nasty, aggressive presence in the middle. He had 20 points (8-8 FT), 17 rebounds on Friday. Alexander-Walker (17.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.3 steals) continues long-term growth and appears to be a legitimate scoring option at guard alongside new guy Graham.

Rookie Herb Jones has found his way into the starting lineup, telling us that Willie Green likes his IQ, ball-handling, and defense ... but if your favorite team is playing a low-usage rookie while trying badly to win games, well, that’s a worrisome feeling. Even if Green goes to Naji Marshall or fellow rookie Trey Murphy III to start, essential guys in the rotation are either young (Jaxson Hayes, Kira Lewis, Jr.) , scoring-averse (Tomas Satoransky, Garrett Temple) or both.

Minnesota may be finally finding their way out of the Western Conference basement.

They’ve made the playoffs once in about four presidents. Anthony Edwards, the first draft pick in 2020, is a dynamic physical presence willing and ready to make tough shots from any distance. He is certainly a league top-3 in-game dunker and a terrific counterbalance to the skill mastery of fellow No. 1 man Karl-Anthony Towns.

Jaden McDaniels provides that necessary NBA length and upside at the wing, while not depending on him because there’s already steady Taurean Prince, underrated but valued third scorer Malik Beasley, and defense-first Josh Okogie. Naz Reid from LSU plays a ton at center. D’Angelo Russell may be asked to do less than in previous years, and maybe that’s a good thing for their team success. Patrick Beverley’s tour of world basketball continues in green and blue.

Geaux Pels!

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (0-3) at Minnesota Timberwolves (2-0)

Where: Target Center, Minneapolis MN

When: October 25, 2021, 7:00 pm

How: League Pass, Bally Sports New Orleans, ESPN 100.3FM

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 @trabeta.