Pelicans still looking for season's first win over Timberwolves (Jan 06, 2018)
MINNEAPOLIS -- A quick, two-game trip to the East Coast didn't go the Minnesota Timberwolves' way.
Minnesota hopes a return home and a familiar opponent can get it back on track. The New Orleans Pelicans are hoping to finally topple the Timberwolves.
Fresh off Friday's 91-84 loss in Boston, Minnesota hosts New Orleans on Saturday night. The Wolves lost both games of the road trip with a surprise 98-97 loss at Brooklyn. The Pelicans got back in the win column with a 108-98 win in Utah on Wednesday and had time to rest up before Saturday's meeting with the Wolves.
"We know we dropped those two games at home but we come on the road and do what we've got to do to take care of business and we did that tonight," New Orleans forward Anthony Davis told the team's website. "So, we've got to keep it going. We've got a couple days off in Minnesota, try to get that one and then come back home and do the same thing. We've got to put a string of wins together."
The Pelicans (19-18) are 10-9 on the road and have won their last three road games by a combined 39 points. With Davis and fellow big man DeMarcus Cousins both healthy and finding their productivity together, New Orleans provides plenty of mismatches. Another important piece lately has been the play of guard Jrue Holiday.
In the past 14 games, Holiday is averaging 22.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. He's shooting 55.6 percent from the field in those games and averaging 2.6 made 3-pointer per game.
Holiday had 24 points, six rebounds and five assists in the win over Utah.
"Well I think when (Holiday) is aggressive he is pretty good," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry told the team's website. "He shot the ball well and he's been able to take it to the basket so in those situations we like for him to be aggressive. Obviously we had one of our bigs, DeMarcus, in foul trouble so we had to play smaller. And (Holiday) has a tendency to be a little more aggressive offensively when one of the bigs are not out on the floor."
Holiday took it upon himself with Cousins in foul trouble.
"Just being aggressive really," Holiday told the team's website. "I feel like that's what they have me here for, what they brought me back for. Obviously when he is out there, him and Anthony (Davis), they can really score and most of the eyes are on them. I just get my opportunity and I try to score."
The three players give New Orleans a scoring trio to match many teams. But the Pelicans haven't scored enough against Minnesota.
The Wolves have won the first two meetings between the two teams this season, both coming in New Orleans. Minnesota won 108-94 on Nov. 1 -- the Pelicans were without point guard Rajon Rondo -- and 120-102 on Nov. 29.
Holiday had a team-high 27 points in the last game after being held to 14 in the first meeting.
Scoring isn't typically an issue for either team. Both New Orleans and the Wolves started Friday among the top-seven scoring teams in the NBA. While the Pelicans still struggle defensively, Minnesota has shown signs of improvement.
The Wolves started Friday 13th in the NBA in points allowed. They held Boston to 91 points and 40.4 percent shooting but couldn't score against the Celtics' stout defense.
Minnesota shot a season-low 36.8 percent and scored a season-low 84 points.
"I think we're very good offensively," coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters at Friday's shootaround. "You know, we're top five in several offensive categories. Our defense has improved. It's still not where it needs to be. I think we're 14th now in points allowed and, so, it's a work in progress.
"I think getting Jimmy (Butler) and Taj (Gibson) has been helpful, but (Karl-Anthony Towns is) really starting to come on now, and so is (Andrew Wiggins). They're making plays that, you know, they haven't made consistently, and that's a big part of it too, is to be consistent with that effort."
Towns was active on Friday with 25 points and a career-high 23 rebounds for his fourth career 20-20 game. Minnesota led 55-48 in the third quarter but the Celtics came back and the Wolves suffered their first back-to-back losses since Nov. 19-20.
"Nobody wants to lose, especially not two in a row, let alone three or four in a row," Butler told the Minneapolis Star Tribune after the game. "But you come in here and that's a really, really, really good team on their floor. You have to play damn near perfect basketball in order to get a win against that team, on the road, in here. And I don't think we did that. They were phenomenal on both ends of the floor."