The 7-34 Minnesota Timberwolves completed their brief homestand on Friday night against the 21-21 New Orleans Pelicans. Both teams reside at the bottom of their respective divisions but one is clearly still playing for something this season while the other continues to receive more bad news. Reports have surfaced that Ricky Rubio’s ankle injury is worse than originally thought. That quickly took all of the steam out of Nikola Pekovic’s return to action on Wednesday night. The Pelicans have been struggling with their own injury news of late with Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday missing time recently.
The two teams met early on this season in New Orleans, with the Pelicans undressing the Wolves to the tune of 139-91 – the worst loss in Wolves’ franchise history.
Looking for a reason to celebrate Wolves’ fans? The Wolves celebrated Crunch’s birthday Friday night at the Target Center. So at least there’s that for those in attendance.
Let’s take a look at how Friday night’s action went down at the Target Center. The Wolves opened up with a starting lineup of Mo Williams, Andrew Wiggins, Robbie Hummel, Thad Young, and Gorgui Dieng. The Pelicans countered with the following starting five: Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, ex-Pup Dante Cunningham, the aforementioned Davis, and Omer Asik.
The one Pup that I have consistently laid into this season (Thad) started off a house of fire, accounting for 7 of the Wolves first 11 points, which led to NOLA Coach Monty Williams to call a very quick timeout with his team down 11-1. While the Wolves continued to hustle and play relatively well coming out of the timeout, the shooting percentage came back to earth and the Pelicans were able to tie the game at 18, forcing Flip Saunders to burn the Wolves first timeout with just over three minutes left to play in the 1st Quarter.
With Wiggins and Pekovic a combined 1-8 in the opening quarter for the Wolves, the Pelicans took a 24-20 lead into the break. As time expired in the 1st, Chase Budinger drew a foul on a three pointer, only to see the referees swallow their whistles. It has been a rough enough season for Chase, he doesn’t need any help from the zebras.
After taking a 32-29 lead in the 2nd Quarter on a beautiful post move from Gorgui Dieng, the Wolves turned the ball over on consecutive series and quickly gave up their lead. Concentrating on the positive for a moment, Dieng’s offensive game continues to grow stronger as the weeks continue to pass by. If for no other reason, and I can’t think of another one, Pekovic’s injury has had at least one benefit for the Wolves and that is the improvement in Dieng’s all around game (and likely his confidence).
At the half, the Wolves trailed 45-44. Halftime notes/stats:
- Thad Young with a team high 11 points on 5-8 shooting … but 0 rebounds
- Conversely, Dieng finished the half with 8 points and 7 rebounds
- The Wolves shot 44% from the floor in the 1st half, while the Pelicans shot 59%
- Pups only got to the free throw line six times in the half – as did the Pelicans – but only made two of their attempts
The 3rd Quarter seemed to slog along with some ugly basketball being played. Through the first four minutes of the quarter, the Wolves had one made basket and two free throws. After Dante Cunningham made two long range jump shots, Flip Saunders called a timeout to try to straighten the ship.
The Pelicans opened up a double digit lead but the Wolves were able to cut it back down to four. Nate Wolters scored as the clock was running down in the quarter, giving the Pelicans a 69-63 lead heading into the final frame.
There were several mini-runs for each team to start the 4th Quarter, with the Wolves trimming the Pelicans lead thanks to some strong offensive play from Chase Budinger, who scored all but two of his ten total points in the 4th. However, the Wolves could never get over the hump and fell to the Pelicans.
With about :40 seconds to go in the game, the Pelicans were inbounding the ball up by six. With a foul to give before going into the penalty, the Wolves scrambled to try to trap an opponent defensively. It didn’t work but with under ten seconds on the shot clock, the Wolves then commit the foul. That resets the shot clock to 14 seconds and the Wolves then have to commit another foul before forcing the Pelicans to the line. In no way, shape or form was this a defensive strategy worth repeating. Ever. Either foul early and stretch the game as much as possible or play and hope they miss the shot.
The final score: New Orleans 92, Minnesota 84.
- Happy birthday Crunch! You don’t look a day over 26 …
- If the Wolves have any interest in winning games the rest of the way, a Pekovic-Dieng frontcourt is going to need to be used
- Mo Williams had a quiet double-double on Friday night, tallying 12 points and 10 assists
- In fact, the Wolves assisted on 27 of their 35 made baskets (77%)