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NBA Preview: Herb Jones could be key in helping Pelicans knock off Timberwolves

The rookie out of Alabama was paying dividends in the starting lineup earlier in the season. It might be time to go that route again.

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

The New Orleans Pelicans are back in action tonight as they host the suddenly streaking Minnesota Timberwolves.

While it’s no murderers’ row, the Wolves have won three straight games in beating the Kings, Spurs and Grizzlies. Their lopsided 138-95 victory versus Memphis this past Saturday particularly stands out because the Pelicans have been smashed coming out of the gates in their last two games.

The Wolves rolled the Grizz in the first half, waking into halftime with a 72-43 lead. Anthony Edwards got the party started with 17 of his 23 points in the first quarter — going 5-5 from 3-point range.

“I feel like once I hit one shot, it’s over for anybody. It don’t matter. Once I hit the first one,” Edwards said. “Think about a basketball player, right, like me. I’m known for getting to the rim and layups. But once my 3-ball fall, you’re all in trouble. My first shot was a 3 and I made it, so nothing else was on my mind but they’re in trouble now.”

Whoever has the assignment of guarding Edwards, lets pray he doesn’t allow Ant an easy first look. But in all seriousness, I hope Willie Green contemplates on making a change to the starting lineup.

Edwards is too big and strong of an assignment for Nickeil Alexander-Walker. You’re not going to ask Brandon Ingram or Tomas Satoransky/Devonte’ Graham to guard him either. If you put Josh Hart on Edwards, who then handles Jared Vanderbilt in the lane on cuts while keeping the power forward off the glass?

With New Orleans posting several meek first quarters in a row (16-29 vs Clippers, 19-32 at Pacers), the starting lineup could use a booster shot, say an injection of a bolt of lightning. Everyone wishes Zion Williamson was an option, but for the time being, I’m thinking of Herb Jones.

The rookie forward started seven of the first eight games before a nasty collision with Jonas Valanciunas derailed that plan. Since returning from the NBA’s concussion protocol, Jones has consistently come off the bench, but I hope the coaching staff revisits that decision soon — as in maybe today.

Prior to Jones sitting out three contests, the Pelicans had a 106.4 offensive rating, a 101.4 defensive rating and a +4.9 rating in first quarters. Third quarters weren’t as troubling as they are now either (95.4 ORTG, 106.9 DRTG, -11.5 NETRTG).

Since the November 3rd game against the Kings, those stats have taken a swan dive.

  • First quarters: 110.8 offensive rating, 115.9 defensive rating, -5.1 net rating
  • Third quarters: 94.2 offensive rating, 122.4 defensive rating, -28.1 net rating

No one should consider Jones a potential savior yet, and it could be a case of arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, but recent trends call for a shakeup somewhere, right?

These Timberwolves are led by three very solid players in Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell and Edwards, but as their record demonstrates, they’re a beatable opponent. The Pelicans proved that in the first week of the season when they won one of two contests in Minnesota. Hopefully, Green and his coaching staff can unlock the right combination once more.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (3-15) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (7-9)

When: November 22, 2021, 7:00 pm

Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, League Pass

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 @OlehKosel.