New Orleans’ in-season turnaround has featured significantly improved defensive performance and a knack for consistently beating opponents with losing records. Upset-minded Minnesota made sure neither of those took place Tuesday, racking up big offensive numbers after a modest-scoring opening quarter.
After trailing 31-28 through a period, the Timberwolves managed to pile up 111 points over the final 36 minutes, handing the Pelicans a damaging loss in their pursuit of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. New Orleans dropped to four games behind No. 8 Memphis, heading into a Wednesday back-to-back at Dallas. It was only the second time since Jan. 1 that the Pelicans have lost a game against a team that is currently under .500 record-wise.
“We needed to start the game guarding, keeping (Minnesota) out of the paint,” Pelicans fifth-year head coach Alvin Gentry said of the defense. “We didn’t do any of those things.
“Hopefully this is a game we learn from, because we can’t afford not to be locked in, to not be into the ball. There were so many backcuts and layups, things like that. We didn’t do a very good job defensively.”
IT WAS OVER WHEN…
D’Angelo Russell sank two free throws with 6 seconds left, giving the Timberwolves a two-possession margin at 139-134. It was the second time this season that Russell (23 points) led a different Western Conference team to a victory over New Orleans, having done the same with Golden State on Dec. 20.
PELICANS PLAYER OF THE GAME
Jrue Holiday finished with a triple-double (27 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists) , part of a very efficient offensive performance by New Orleans, with all five starters making more than half of their shots from the field. Holiday shot 10/16 from the field, including 8/10 from two-point range.
BY THE NUMBERS
15: New Orleans turnovers, leading to 20 Minnesota points.
14/34: Minnesota three-point shooting, or 41 percent.
1, 3: New Orleans and Minnesota rank, respectively, in scoring average since the Feb. 6 trade deadline, entering Tuesday's game. Those averages both increased after an extreme shootout in the Smoothie King Center.
For all 12 Tuesday games throughout New Orleans’ regular season, we’ll be selecting a Pelicans player we think will have the best plus-minus on the stat sheet that night. Daniel Sallerson selected Brandon Ingram, while Jim Eichenhofer picked Derrick Favors. In a fan poll among four other candidates, Lonzo Ball was chosen. The winner of the ninth plus-minus contest was the fans, making the season standings Daniel 5, Fans 3, Jim 1. Sallerson and Eichenhofer are not allowed to select the same player more than once in Weeks 1-6 or 7-12.
Feb. 11 vs. Portland, Daniel – Zion Williamson (Jim: JJ Redick; Fans: Lonzo Ball)
Feb. 25 at Los Angeles Lakers, Daniel – Jrue Holiday (Jim: Zion Williamson; Fans: Lonzo Ball)
March 24 vs. Memphis
March 31 at Atlanta
April 7 vs. Charlotte