Preview: Wolves at Pelicans
NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Pelicans have won four of their past five home games.
However, their last home game before that stretch was a 104-98 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Nov. 1. Those teams meet again Wednesday night in the Smoothie King Center.
New Orleans (11-9) has had three days off since a 110-95 loss at Golden State, a result that ended the Pelicans’ three-game winning streak.
The Timberwolves (12-9) are completing a back-to-back set, having lost to the Washington Wizards 92-89 in Minneapolis on Tuesday night. They are 1-2 in the second games of back-to-backs.
The Pelicans have the most prolific set of big men in the NBA with DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, but they are surrounding the duo with a smaller supporting cast of late.
Coach Alvin Gentry has started guard E’Twaun Moore in place of small forward Dante Cunningham the past four games.
“We’re not going to be as big as we would starting Dante, so we’ll see how it goes and see how we play,” Gentry told the Times-Picayune. “We’ve done a good job playing against bigger teams. We’ve just got to be solid, and that’s where our team defense has to be really solid.”
Cunningham, who moved into the starting lineup when Solomon Hill was lost to injury before the season, is shooting only 27.1 percent on 3-pointers.
“E’Twaun is able to score the basketball and make the right plays,” Davis told the Times-Picayune. “It’s good when he’s around (the starters). … When he’s out there, he’s definitely a threat on both sides of the floor.”
Davis is the reigning Western Conference Player of the Week after leading New Orleans to a 3-1 record, averaging 29.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists on 58.6 percent shooting.
The Pelicans were led in the first meeting with Minnesota, as they usually are, by Cousins and Davis. Cousins had 35 points, nine rebounds, six assists, six steals and three blocks, tying his career high with five 3-pointers and making all 10 of his free throws. Davis had 24 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
But New Orleans faltered late. The game was tied at 98 when Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler converted a three-point play with 34 seconds left. The Pelicans turned the ball over on the ensuing possession and didn’t score again.
On Tuesday night, it was the Timberwolves who came up short down the stretch as Washington finished with a 13-5 run.
“If you get a lead, you’ve got to play tough with a lead,” Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau said. “You can’t play a loose game.”
The Timberwolves continued to get balanced scoring. All five starters are averaging in double figures, and all five scored in double figures against the Wizards even though starting point guard Jeff Teague missed his third consecutive game. He is day-to-day because of a sore Achilles tendon.
Tyus Jones, starting in Teague’s place, averaged 9.7 points, 6.7 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 4.0 steals over the past three games.
“The way he sees things is his greatest strength,” Thibodeau told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “He can anticipate. He reads plays well. He rarely makes the same mistake twice.”
Six Timberwolves scored in double figures in the first game against New Orleans even though leading scorer Karl-Anthony Towns was limited to less than 23 minutes of playing time because of foul trouble. Towns finished with just two points and five rebounds.