Though the oft injured “Finishing Five” has struggled to be on the court at the same, the three members active for last night’s Pelicans match-up against Minnesota were as explosive as ever, leading New Orleans (19-31) to a dominant 116-102 victory over the young Timberwolves (16-37) squad at the Target Center in Minneapolis.
Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday scored 27 points apiece, and Ryan Anderson was not far off pace with 26 of his own, adding up to 80 of the Pelicans 116 points. For an offense that has looked out of sync over the last four games, tonight’s performance was liberating to say the least.
Anderson had been struggling to find his shot before tonight. Through those last four games, he shot only 37% from the field and made only 3 of his 18 three point attempts. The continued absence of Evans and Gordon means opposing defenses can continue to make Anderson a focal point, of their defensive game plan.
A majority of Anderson’s points last night came late when the game’s result was essentially in the bag, but hot streaks like that are exactly what fuels The Flamethrower’s momentum. Without him on his game, the Pelicans will struggle to reach 100 points.
Feb 8, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson (33) blocks a shot by Minnesota Timberwolves forward Shabazz Muhammad (15) in the second half at Target Center. The Pelicans won 116-102. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Hitting the century mark on the scoreboard is usually a decent barometer for a team’s success, but the Pelicans have taken it to another level.
Last night’s win improved their record to 19-8 when scoring at least 100 points. That is a 66% win percentage, a figure only 6 teams in the entire NBA can claim at this point in the season.
However, if case you haven’t noticed already, 19 wins when scoring more than 100 points means the Pelicans have won a jaw-dropping 0 games when they fail to do so: 0-24.
I have never tracked the stat before this season, but that has to be some kind of record, for better or for worse. It would be nice if they could win at least one grind-it-out defensive stand-off this season, but at the same time, I can always appreciate an insane statistic.
Feb 8, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) dribbles the ball against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
One stat the Pelicans dominated last night was points off of turnovers. The Pels converted 12 takeaways into 21 points, 19 more than the Wolves, who only scored 2 points off of mistakes.
It helps that the Pelicans only turned the ball over 4 times on the night, which should have Alvin Gentry grinning from ear to ear. 22 assists is not a pristine total, but when coupled with that low turnover total the efficiency is about as good as could be.
Minnesota has had their fair share of struggles so far this season, but the young talent that composes their core looks better and better each game. Karl Anthony-Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine are the stand out performers, but Ricky Rubio and Gorgui Dieng could be around for a while as well.
The late Flip Saunders assembled perhaps the most intriguing young nucleus in the entire NBA, and while it is incredibly unfortunate he will not be able to see it run its course, the Timberwolves have to be happy with the trajectory of the team, which can really only go up.
At 13 games under .500, the Pelicans are currently 6.5 games behind the Utah Jazz for the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
Now that the Jazz have their big men Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert back on the floor together, they have won 5 straight games and have yet to show any signs of slowing down. The Pels host the Jazz on Wednesday night, a game that could really mean something down the stretch if they can turn their season around.
The optimist in me prefers to keep an eye on the playoff picture, but it is hard to resist taking a look at the lottery, where the Pelicans currently have the sixth best odds at securing the number one pick overall.
As frustrating as it has been, ending up with that good of a chance at any of the top three picks is far from catastrophic. As long as the morale of the team can stay relatively high, a high pick could help turn things around in a big way in the coming seasons.
The Pelicans host the Jazz on Wednesday night at the Smoothie King Center, with the opening tip-off beginning at 7 P.M. CST….