The Wolves beat the Pelicans 104-98 in New Orleans Wednesday night to move to 5-3 on the season. The win was Minnesota’s third straight and the team now sits tied for third place in the Western Conference.
If you’re a fan of the Minnesota Timberwolves, those are all fun things!
Here are three observations from the game:
Bench comes up HUGE
If I told you before the game that the Wolves won with Karl-Anthony Towns and Jeff Teague combining for seven points while shooting a combined 3-for-13 from the field, 0-for-3 from the 3-point line and 1-for-2 from the free-throw line, you’d slap me silly.
Please apologize for your slap. The Wolves won. And that had a lot to do with the team’s bench.
The second unit combined for 45 points, having all five players with a positive +/-.
Gorgui Dieng: 12 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 4-for-8 from the field, 3-for-4 from the FT line, +7
Nemanja Bjelica: 12 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 5-for-6 from the field, 2-for-3 from deep, +5
Jamal Crawford: 11 points, 3 steals, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 3-for-4 from the field, 2-for-3 from deep, 3-for-3 from the FT line, +12
Tyus Jones: 4 points, 5 assists, 1 rebounds, 1-for-1 from the field, 2-for-2 from the FT line, +15
Shabazz Muhammad: 6 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block, 3-for-4 from the field, +10
The team’s second unit isn’t going to play this well every night, but guys like Towns and Teague won’t play as poorly as they did, either.
For the first time in a while, the Wolves have some guys waiting on the bench who can give the starters a pick-me-up if need be.
Plus, Crawford continues to do stuff like this proving that he’ll play basketball until he’s 170 years old.
Wolves Shut Down Pelicans’ Wings
Led by Jimmy Butler (who also had a team-high 23 points), the Wolves held Jrue Holiday, E’Twaun Moore and Dante Cunningham to a combined 22 points. The three combined to shoot 10-for-26 from the field and 1-for-8 from the 3-point line.
Sure, part of this is because the Pelicans’ offense runs through DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, but to limit three of the team’s starters to just 22 points is pretty remarkable.
In completely related news, the Wolves are 5-1 with Butler in the lineup and 0-2 without him.
Davis and Cousins Need Some Help
Davis and Cousins combined for 59 points, 19 rebounds, 12 assists, nine steals and four blocks. If two players combine for that, you’d think it would equal a win. But you already know the results of this game because I told you in the first sentence.
Combined, the two are averaging 57 points and 25 rebounds per game. But only two other players (Holiday and Moore) are averaging more than 10 points per game.
In the West, it’s probably not good enough to have two star-level players anymore. And if you do just have two, you probably need more depth than the Pelicans have.
Then again, the Pelicans beat the defending Eastern Conference champs just five days ago so I might be overreacting.
The Wolves are back at it Saturday night against the Mavericks at Target Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.