New Orleans Pelicans Set Records Against the Timberwolves

Good teams defeat the teams that they should beat; great teams demolish them. After playing a terrible final four minutes against the Lakers on Wednesday, it was clear that they were not going to let up off the gas if they got a big lead tonight. The lead became double digits early on, then hit twenty in the second half. Then thirty. Then before you knew it, they were up forty. Then, dare I say it, 50! The intensity wavered a little bit from time to time, but every time that it did, the players were reminded of Wednesday night and the rout continued.

Records were broken tonight at the Timberwolves expense. Most points in a half (80). Most points in a game (139). Most FG’s made (56). Highest Effective Field Goal Percent (75.6%). The offense was amazing, and this wasn’t a terrible defensive team. The Pelicans just started hot and never let up. The Pelicans got into the paint at will (56 points) and hit their three’s as well (15-20). As Bryan Gates noted at the half, “the guys were willing to make the extra pass.” The ball moved freely around the perimeter, and even though the team only had 17 fast break points, they played with tremendous pace throughout the game. After rebounds, they got the ball into a guards hands and got into their offense incredibly early.

The guys said all the right things after the game. Jrue claims that the team is starting to click, while Austin loves the chemistry he and Ryno are building off the bench. And yes, tonight was a great sign, but it won’t mean anything if they go out and lay an egg on their upcoming road trips. 9 of their next 11 are on the road, and they will go face to face with teams that they will be competing with for a playoff spot this year. The Pelicans will travel to Portland, Sacramento, OKC, Golden State, and LA (Clippers). They won’t need record-breaking performances every night, but they will need guys to show up and help Anthony Davis against the top teams in the league moving forward. Demolishing the Timberwolves and refusing to let off the gas is a great sign, as this team continues to show flashes of greatness – and those flashes are getting longer and longer with each passing game.

Notes and Observations

– Confidence is a real thing, and the Pelicans top players have it right now. Austin Rivers has improved his skill set, but more than anything you see him brimming with confidence. Eric Gordon looked shook after the first few games, but he has had a bounce in his step these last few games. And what can you say about AD? He clearly knows he is the best player on the court every time he steps onto it and doesn’t hesitate on the offensive end. Ryno and Tyreke never lacked confidence in their offensive game, and now Jrue is coming back around to his All-Star level – good luck NBA.

– Luke Babbitt can hit some shots, but in the last two games we have seen him try to defend Kobe and Andrew Wiggins, and you shouldn’t be surprised that the results were horrible. He is the backup small forward by default (see below), but his destiny in this league seems to be as a solid small ball four. With Ryno and AD at that position, we don’t need that from him right now, so he is forced to play out of position. He went 4-4 from three tonight, so the good outweighed the bad, but the defense is bad. Real bad.

– John Salmons didn’t even see the court in a game we led by 53. That says a lot. Darius Miller got 17 minutes and didn’t log a single rebound, assist, block, steal, or free throw attempt. He went 1-3 from the field and picked up 4 fouls. Like I said, Babbitt is a SF by default at this point.

– The Pelicans were able to switch a lot defensively tonight – both on off-ball screens and on-ball screens. Save for a stretch in the third quarter when the Pels lacked a little focus (up by 50+), the Timberwolves really didn’t get any easy looks. The Pelicans defense made them work for everything, and if not for some questionable calls by the refs, the Wolves might have had trouble breaking 80 tonight. Asik, in particular, was impressive as he was able to stonewall Pekovic. And outside of a bad foul early on by Eric Gordon, the Pelicans perimeter guys did a terrific job on Kevin Martin. The offense is fun, especially on record-breaking nights like this, but this team will go as far as its defense will take them, and it is trending toward average.

– Tyreke Evans had his head up a lot more when he was driving to the hole tonight, and the result was a couple of easy points for AD. He also was able to finish at the rim (10 points in the paint). Again, a great sign, but I want to see it against the top teams. At the end of the day, these guys will be measured by what they do against playoff teams, not the Magic, Lakers, and T’Wolves. We need more performances like the one we had in the first 44 minutes against the Spurs when we play top teams. If we see a couple of wire to wire wins against top tier teams, then we have real reason to get excited.

– So many good things to say about the performance tonight, but the biggest takeaway is that you see this team growing before your eyes. It is becoming more and more clear what they want to do on the offensive end and there are better rotations on the defensive end. Even after defensive breakdowns, you see these guys getting together to discuss what went wrong. It’s a process, and they are growing. If they continue to grow both individually and collectively, they will terrorize the rest of the league.

11 responses to “New Orleans Pelicans Set Records Against the Timberwolves”

  1. I could not agree more Mc!  Very excited at what a team growing in confidence may be able to achieve and right now you really can see it building.  Many weapons starting to learn their roles and syncing up. Bring on the next game!

  2. When i saw Reke run the fast break and throw a lob to AD I knew it was going to be a good night.  So many times this year he has held on to the ball too long trying to run the break and it just hasn’t worked out.  Nice to see him looking for others in that situation.  He has been leading the team in assists so I guess I can’t be too critical of his game.

  3. What a great night to be in the Blender!   This is what we all thought the team could be when healthy and focused and playing against teams outside our ridiculous division.   Has there ever been a division in pro sports where every team made the playoffs?
    NOLA is now 6th in the daily ESPN Hollinger Power Rankings, which are objective based on who you beat where and how much you beat them by.  It is early, but one-tenth of the season is in the books and that’s where we rank.
    I was pleased to see both Ajinca and Withey play solid minutes.   Ajinca rebounded well with only a few fouls, and Withey did his usual efficient vanilla performance like last year.    
    Rivers is now clearly more efficient and productive than Gordon, even during Gordon’s best game of the season so far.  It is nice to see a bond forming with Anderson.   
    I appreciate AD continuing to play in the flow, letting others on the team harvest points and rebounds rather than looking for his own in this game.   He is by far the most impactful player in the league so far, now 20% better than the next best in Wins Produced per 48 minutes.   More importantly, we now have Omer Asik, Austin Rivers(!!), and Jrue Holliday playing at superstar or star levels along with AD’s SUPERSTAR performance.   Ryan Anderson and Jeff Withey are above average as well.   That is a solid core group with playoff potential.

  4. My editing timed out.  Here is edited post:

    A day later, the most interesting thing to me is the SF rotation.  Might this mean Salmons gets minutes only when Babbitt (and Miller) can’t match up?  Or was it a case of the Pelicans being up so much that backup SF minutes went to guys who have been out for a while?  Stay tuned.
    Next most interesting?  
    Look at Pelicans players’ PER #s.  3 players (Davis, Holiday, and Anderson) in the top 40 in PER and 4 above a 20 PER with the lowest, Asik, being #53.  This ranking may be low; 7 other players in the top 50 PER are averaging fewer than 20 minutes so they primarily earn their PER against backups. (Anderson plays starters minutes, averaging 25/game, and plays a lot against starters, so his PER number has more legitimacy to me.)  Evans is at #110 with a 17 PER and Rivers, of the horrible first season PER, has a PER of 16 and comes in at #128.  Based on current PER, and the eye test, we have 6 good rotational players.
    Next highest PER among Pelican rotational players?  Babbitt (8.6), Ajinca (7.0),  Gordon (5.5) and Jimmer (2.8).  (Salmons and Miller still have negative PERS!)  I still like Ajinca and Babbitt as good value roster players longer term, and want to experiment with Gordon coming off of the bench.

  5. I agree, but the Pels/Hornets were losing for a long time, during which there was a lot of uncertainty, regarding the team’s future in Nola. That bred a lot of apathy.
    Benson and Dell knew this team needed to become winners QUICKLY. The Pels couldn’t afford to tank, and further alienate themselves from the fan base.
    People are starting to notice how good Anthony Davis is, and the team is starting to show how good they can be. They need to show a little more prolonged consistency in terms of winning for sellouts to happen. I believe we are really close.

  6. lsucpolk So you say people in NOLA are not aware of how great AD is? they need to start winning for people to want to see him? I know Jason is not watching attendance anymore as there are no benchmarks to reach, but i truly believe great players love to play in a full house with all eyes on him… Hope we can show AD what a good fanbase NOLA is before that could count in his decision to sign his next (ok, the one after the next, as he will sign the 5 yr max deal) contract.

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