Image licensed from USA Today Sports
Both the Minnesota Timberwolves (7-29) and the New Orleans Pelicans (15-21) went into the All-Star Break on a slump. The Timberwolves lost their last nine consecutive games in the first half, and 12 of their last 13. The Pelicans won their last game of the first half, but finished having lost four of their last five.
For the Timberwolves, the first-half struggles were exacerbated by injuries to Karl-Anthony Towns, Malik Beasley, and DeAngelo Russell. While Towns and Beasley are back and performing well, DeAngelo Russell is out for the next four to six weeks after having surgery on his leg. For New Orleans, the first half struggles had more to do with lackluster play than injuries. Still, Zion Williamson and JJ Reddick are questionable in this one with minor injuries. Coming off a break, both are expected to play.
The last time the two teams met, Minnesota was without Karl-Anthony Towns and DeAngelo Russell, and still managed to snag a 120-110 win over the 8.5 point favorite Pelicans. Naz Reid led the balanced Minnesota attack with 20 points, while Anthony Edwards 18 and Jarred Vanderbilt recorded a 16 point, 11 rebound double-double. The Pelicans were plagued by 20 turnovers in the game. Brandon Ingram, who committed seven of them, also scored 30 points. Eric Bledsoe scored 28 points, and Zion Williamson added 19 points and 11 rebounds.
The Timberwolves will look very similar to that game, except they will have Karl-Anthony Towns back. The big question will be how well New Orleans takes care of the ball. Expect a close game between two struggling franchises.
Timberwolves Look to Kick Off Second Half on a High Note
When you are a struggling team, sometimes the best medicine is a much-needed break, which the Timberwolves got with the All-Star festivities this past weekend. The first half of the season was defined by injuries and a coaching change, but now the Wolves have a chance to improve. It starts with tonight’s game at New Orleans.
— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) March 4, 2021
The Timberwolves are 29th in effective field goal percent (50.3%), 18th in turnover percent (12.7%), 17th in offensive rebounding percentage (22.2%), and 30th in free throws per field goal attempt (.164). Karl-Anthony Towns leads the Wolves with 22.0 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 3.9 apg, and 1.8 bpg. Malik Beasley, who has connected on 40.6% of his three-point attempts, has averaged 20.5 ppg and 4.6 rpg. Anthony Edwards has averaged 14.9+ ppg, 4.0 rpg, and 2.6 apg, and is taking on a more prominent role with DeAngelo Russell.
Defensively, Minnesota is ranked 21st in opponent’s effective field goal percent of 54.9%. The Wolves are 11th in the league in defensive turnover percent (12.3%), 29th in the league in defensive rebounding percent (75.8%), and 27th in the league in opponent’s free throw per field goal attempt (.220).
Pelicans Must Figure Out the Defensive End
The New Orleans Pelicans’ first half of the season was defined by poor defense. The Pelicans were not a good defensive team last season and traded their best defensive piece in the offseason. Now, the young Pelicans are going to have to figure that end of the floor out if they are going to make a run into the postseason in the loaded Western Conference. As a team, New Orleans ranks 29th in opponent’s effective field goal percentage (56.4%), 22nd in opponent’s turnovers percentage (11.9%), fourth in defensive rebounding percentage (79.5%), and 10th in opponent’s free throws per field goal attempt (.184).
The Pelicans are led by the duo of Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson, with crafty veterans like JJ Reddick and Eric Bledsoe, and a budding star in Lonzo Ball providing support. Ingram has averaged 23.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg, and 4.8 apg while shooting 37.9% from beyond the arc. Williamson has averaged 25.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg, and 3.1 apg. Ball has raised his average to 14.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg, and 5.1 apg, while Bledsoe checks in with a 12.6 ppg average. He is hitting 38.5% of his three-point attempts.
As a team offensively, the Pelicans rank 8th in effective field goal percent (54.9%). New Orleans is tops in the league in offensive rebounding percentage at 26.9, and is fifth in free throws per field goal attempts (.210).
- New Orleans: Pelicans are 2-6 ATS in their last 8 Thursday games.
- New Orleans: Pelicans are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 home games.
The Bottom Line
What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
The last time these two teams played, the Pelicans committed 20 turnovers in a loss at Minnesota to a team that was without Karl-Anthony Towns and DeAngelo Russell. Towns and his 22.0 ppg are back in the lineup, which should help the Timberwolves. However, Minnesota is on the road, and the Pelicans have averaged around 12 turnovers per game since that loss. The Pelicans should be better offensively, but so will the Timberwolves. I think New Orleans will win a close game, so I’m picking Minnesota to cover if the spread is 3.5 or more in favor of the Pelicans.
Want another opinion on this pick?
Full-Game Total Pick
The Pelicans were so bad defensively in the first half that it is hard to pick the UNDER in any game they play this season. In all reality, the total was 230 the first time these two teams met, and I think this game will exceed that as New Orleans will commit fewer turnovers, while Karl-Anthony Towns will suit up this time for the Timberwolves.