The New Orleans Pelicans’ margin for error remains thin as they try to reach the postseason for the first time in four years. Tyreke Evans’ recent play at point guard and Anthony Davis’ continued dominance figures to give them a fighting chance, however.
New Orleans looks to capitalize on Sunday’s matchup with the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves to remain in the hunt.
The Pelicans (38-34) snapped a four-game skid with a 102-88 win over Sacramento on Friday and still have a chance, albeit an unlikely one, to catch eighth-place Oklahoma City. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2011, though they already have their highest win total since that season.
"There’s a lot of new frontiers for us as far as dealing with the kind of pressure that we have right now to win all these games down the stretch. I think winning a game like this can be contagious," coach Monty Williams said. "I hope we can carry this over and be even better on Sunday."
Evans, a 27.5 percent career 3-point shooter, has scored 53 over his last two games while going 6 of 10 from deep.
"I think guys don’t respect him (on the perimeter) because they don’t think he can shoot," said Davis, who has averaged 27.9 points over his last 10 contests. "But like I said, he’s been working on it."
Evans recorded 25 points and 10 assists against the Kings for his career-high 17th double-double. He has averaged 7.8 assists in 33 games at point guard with Jrue Holiday sidelined due to a right leg injury. He averaged 5.3 assists previously.
"I’ve had enough time to be at this position," said Evans, who is also averaging 16.8 points. "I’m just working at it every day, you know, just trying to make this team better and do what I got to do for us to win. If it’s a scoring night, passing night, I’ve just got to be out there to help us."
The Timberwolves (16-56) remain at the bottom of the Western Conference and lost 120-110 at Houston on Friday despite the Rockets missing three starters.
Andrew Wiggins continued his excellent play, though, scoring 31. He has averaged 23.3 points on 51.6 percent shooting over his last four.
"He’s playing at a really, really high level," coach Flip Saunders said. "He’s doing things that I really didn’t envision he’d get to as far advanced as he has gotten to at this point. It seems like every time we give him more responsibility, he continues to thrive."
Minnesota continues to be plagued by poor defense, though, letting Houston shoot 53.0 percent and match the league’s season high with 20 3-pointers as it dropped to 4-24 when an opponent hits at least 10 shots from beyond the arc. The Timberwolves have yielded 109.5 points per game while dropping eight of 10.
A number of injuries has them without Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, Shabazz Muhammad, Kevin Garnett and Anthony Bennett. Kevin Martin, the team’s leader with 20.2 points per game, is questionable after missing the last three contests with a strained left hamstring.
The Pelicans set a franchise record for points in a 139-91 home win on Nov. 14, shooting an NBA season-high and club-record 66.7 percent. They were 15 for 20 from beyond the arc.