With only 10 games remaining in the regular season, the Pelicans (39-34) will need an extremely strong finish to sneak into the postseason. In their matinee against the Minnesota Timberwolves Sunday afternoon, New Orleans took a step in the right direction — comfortably taking the game, 110-88.
The Timberwolves (16-57) are a struggling young team, but they have the athleticism to pounce if their opponents become too lax. This happened today as the Pels hopped out to an early 14 point lead after the first quarter. They scored 25 and held the Timberwolves to only 11 over the first 12 minutes, the lowest total they have allowed all season.
Mar 29, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans center Omer Asik (3) dunks the ball over Minnesota Timberwolves center Justin Hamilton (41) during the first half of a game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
However, the Timberwolves shoved back in the second quarter. With Omer Asik off the floor, Adreian Payne and Andrew Wiggins led a frenzy in the Pels paint, closing the lead to as little as 2.
Fortunately despite the defensive lapse in the second (in which the Wolves scored 30 points), the New Orleans offense was packed with enough firepower to keep Minnesota at arms length.
One Pelican who deviated from the mean tonight was center Omer Asik. Asik, who only averages a tick over 5 shot attempts per game, made 7 of his 9 attempts against a depleted Timberwolves frontcourt.
He converted on a handful of shots from right under the basket, an area where he has struggled to get up shots in games past. Asik’s body must finally be feeling in tip-top shape, and it is good to finally see the “Turkish Hammer” assert himself on the offensive end.
Speaking of feeling good, that is how Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday have been feeling over the past couple of days. According to Pelicans beat writer Jim Eichenhofer, they have ramped up their on the court regiment.
Though there will be little room for adjustment for both players if and when they return to action, their presence may be boost the Pels need to control their own playoff fate.
Sir Charles In Charge
The backcourt of Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans was good today: nothing too flashy, but they got the job done. They combined for 21 points on 9-14 shooting, and after 2 early turnovers by Gordon the pair only coughed the ball up 4 times.
It would be nice to see them both, and especially Tyreke, get to the free throw line more but it is hard to argue with the end result.
Mar 29, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Eric Gordon (10) shoots the ball over Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins (22) during the first half of a game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
The Pels got an extremely efficient effort from nearly the entire bench this afternoon.
Norris Cole scored 10 points, and fellow reserve Toney Douglas flustered the Wolves guards all day on the defensive end.
Even though the likes of Gordon and Evans are more talented than Cole and Douglas, it is still fun to watch the latter zip around the floor and make things happen.
Forwards Dante Cunningham and Luke Babbitt got in on the fun too. Babbitt got his 7 points in garbage time, but it was still nice to see him converting his offensive looks.
Cunningham continues to be an animal in the hustle game, exhibited perfectly by his dive to the floor in the fourth quarter.
He could have been complacent with giving up possession, but instead he forced a crazy sequence that lead to free throws for Davis.
Monty Williams liked it, the fans liked it and his teammates liked it.
As long as he keeps providing that kind of effort and continues to produce results, he will have a role on this team.
After that second quarter scare, the Pels upped their lead to around 9 for most of the third quarter before inflating that to 22 by games end.
This team has had trouble against the bad teams all season, and it very well could cost them a spot in the playoffs. But for now, the Pels just need to take care of business because their fate is quite likely in their hands…..