Game Preview: Pelicans vs. Timberwolves - February 7, 2014
In their 49th game of the 2013-14 regular season, on Friday the New Orleans Pelicans are slated to make their first national TV appearance on either ESPN, ABC or TNT, hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves. The game tips off at the unusual local time of 8:30 p.m., in order to serve as the second half of ESPN’s national doubleheader (the opener of the twinbill is Portland at Indiana).
This is the first of three ESPN games for the Pelicans in the month of February alone. At the start of the team’s five-game road trip later this month, the network will broadcast a Feb. 26 game between New Orleans and Dallas, followed by a NOLA-Phoenix contest two nights later.
A national audience will see a Pelicans lineup that has been forced to compensate for the absence of multiple key players due to injury. Earlier this week, Jason Smith (knee) was ruled out for the season after undergoing knee surgery. Meanwhile, Jrue Holiday (stress fracture, right tibia) and Ryan Anderson (herniated disc) are out indefinitely. After struggling initially without that trio, the Pelicans have been an improved club recently, including a 4-1 stretch that featured wins over Detroit, Orlando, Cleveland and Chicago.
Anthony Davis has been spectacular while shouldering major responsibility at both ends of the floor, moving into the team lead in scoring average (just ahead of Anderson) and leading the NBA in blocks per game. The Pelicans have also received increased point production from shooting guard Eric Gordon and bench contributors such as Austin Rivers and Anthony Morrow. Reserve center Greg Stiemsma recently had two of the best rebounding games of his NBA career.
The Pelicans are hosting the Timberwolves for the only time this season, after losing at Minneapolis twice in January. Minnesota began the New Year with a convincing 124-112 victory on Jan. 1, then posted a low-scoring 88-77 win on Jan. 29.
Anthony Davis vs. Kevin Love