The biggest question entering Saturday night’s game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and New Orleans Pelicans was if the energy and domination from the season opener was a fluke, or if it would carry over into the next games on the schedule.
After all, Wolves fans have seen this time and time again: their team starts the season with a bang before falling back to Earth. (Take a look at the last six seasons, for example.
Taking out a tougher opponent (compared to this year’s Houston Rockets, at least) in the New Orlean Pelicans can help the fans continue to climb the trust ladder, even with Zion Williamson not on the court for the Pels.
The Minnesota Timberwolves’ defense bottled up the New Orleans Pelicans
No flames were shot from the hoops in tonight’s opening quarter like what happened in the home opener, and no nets were set fire in the first quarter as the Wolves struggled to score outside of some successful trips down the floor in transition, and, of course, Karl-Anthony Towns.
In an attempt to be more aggressive at the rim, the Wolves became sloppy with the ball as the congestion in the paint was too much. In a quarter that seemed like it was dominated by the Timberwolves’ defense, the Pelicans only found themselves down one with stellar shooting to keep them in it.
The second quarter saw the bench unit continue where the starters left off with the main focus being defensive. The Pelicans looked swarmed at times and the Wolves found themselves with seven steals through the second quarter. The hustle transitioned to the offensive as well as the Wolves got multiple shots a possession, something we haven’t seen in years past as teams consistently outrebounded Minnesota.
The Wolves were still down in the rebound category after forcing 16 turnovers on the Pelicans, but the offense starting flowing at a more consistent rate in the second and the Wolves pulled away, taking a 13-point lead into the half.
The second half started sloppy with many stoppages of play that killed the momentum. The Wolves would see themselves take their foot off the neck of the Pelicans and let them right back in the game for the second time. Minnesota only took a two-point lead into the fourth quarter after scoring an abysmal 15 points in the third frame.
The Timberwolves inflated their lead back to 12 early in the fourth, and after a few big shots, the defense found their mojo again. The Wolves looked in control before Towns fouled out with 6:47 left on the clock. They were up by nine at the time, and although the team toyed with the lead a little, they never gave it up.
This would have been the second game the Wolves held their opponent under 100 points if the third unit hadn’t struggled in game one. The defense certainly seems to be legit.
Key takeaways from the Minnesota Timberwolves’ win over the Pelicans
No. 1: The Timberwolves again didn’t play a full game
The biggest problem with the Timberwolves through two games is that they haven’t played a full game.
Once the team gets up by double digits, they seem to coast and try to keep the lead at 10-plus rather than increase it. Cold stretches like the third quarter in this game allow teams to stay in it. If this was a fully healthy or more elite opponent, this isn’t a game that the Wolves would have come away with.
No. 2: Relative lack of Target Center energy
The Wolves fed off the energy of the fans early on, but after the third quarter, the fan impact appeared to fall away.
With the Wolves season just starting and the team coming off of a strong home opener, it was fair to expect a lot from the crowd. Crowd motivation is a real thing, after all. If a player dunks on someone and Target Center loses its collective mind, the team is going to thrive off that. Fans are important, and the team needs you!
No. 3: Malik Beasley was largely a non-factor
It’s probably way too early to judge, but Malik Beasley has not been a major offensive factor through two games. For a team that’s had plenty of team chemistry problems in recent years, it’s fair to worry that the family aspect might be derailed if certain players aren’t getting their buckets.
Then again, if the team keeps winning, it may not matter. Also, rotations will undoubtedly tighten up as the season goes along.
The Wolves play host to these same Pelicans on Monday night. Can they get to 3-0?