Preview: Timberwolves at Pelicans
Paced by Anthony Davis, the New Orleans Pelicans began their current stretch of success with another victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves earlier this month.
Though the All-Star landed awkwardly on his knee in the Pelicans’ most recent triumph, Davis seems ready to help them try for an eighth consecutive victory over the visiting Timberwolves on Saturday night.
The Pelicans organization and its fans received a scare Thursday as Davis laid on the ground grabbing his left knee after leaping to block Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook’s layup attempt late in the fourth quarter. Davis, though, remained in the game and hit two clutch free throws and grabbed a key rebound in the final minute of a 123-119 home victory, New Orleans’ fifth win in seven games.
"I wasn’t coming out. I can tell you that," said Davis, who scored 30 to bounce back from a nine-point effort in Tuesday’s 20-point loss at Washington.
He said the knee "feels good" after New Orleans improved to 3-1 following the All-Star break. Davis has at least 30 points in three of the last four, including a franchise-record 59 at Detroit on Sunday.
The Pelicans (23-34) shot 52.2 percent – third-highest performance of the season – against the Thunder and have scored at least 110 four times in the last seven.
"Guys are playing at a high level now," Davis said.
New Orleans is 5 1/2 games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but the immediate focus is to keep progressing.
"We appreciate what we’re doing and how we’re playing, but the only thing we can think about is the next game," coach Alvin Gentry said. "No streak, no playing well, no anything. Just, what can we do in the next game?"
Davis scored 35 and the Pelicans shot 50.6 percent in a 114-99 home win over Minnesota (18-40) on Jan. 19, but Eric Gordon left with a fractured right ring finger.
Gordon has sat out all 16 games since but Gentry says he will be inserted back into the starting lineup Saturday. The shooting guard, who is averaging 14.9 points and is among the Pelicans’ top perimeter shooters with 101 3-pointers, says he’s eager to return to a team making a late-season push.
New Orleans’ 5-2 stretch began with a 116-102 victory at Minnesota on Feb. 8, with Davis and Jrue Holiday each scoring 27 and Ryan Anderson adding 26.
That game began a stretch in which Holiday is averaging 22.4 points and 8.7 assists for New Orleans, which has shot better than 48 percent all but once during its seven-game series winning streak. It’s won five consecutive meetings at home, with the last three by an average of 28.3 points.
Davis has averaged 28.5 points in the last four against the Timberwolves.
Though Minnesota reached 100 points for the first time in seven games against the Pelicans this month, it went 2 of 12 from 3-point range and trailed by as many as 28.
"I’m just going to say it’s one of those clunkers," said Timberwolves interim coach Sam Mitchell, whose team has dropped four of six beginning with that defeat.
Two nights after shooting 51.8 percent in a 124-122 home win over Boston, the Timberwolves made half of their 74 attempts Thursday but went 8 for 21 while being outscored 27-19 in the fourth quarter of a 114-105 loss at Toronto.
Andrew Wiggins, who had 26 points with a season-high six turnovers on Thursday, scored 15 against the Pelicans this month but has at least 20 in three games at New Orleans.