Game On: New Orleans @ Minnesota

Published: January 1, 2014

Two teams fighting for the end of the playoff seeding clash tonight as the Pelicans visit the Minnesota Timberwolves.  Looking at their records, you would assume the teams are comparable, with Minnesota 15-16 and the Pelicans 14-15.  The records, however, obscure the fact the Wolves have an offense that generates 108.4 points per possession and their defense allows 104.3.  The Pelicans essentially match that offensive output, but their defense is four points worse.

The offense is powered by a trio of efficient scorers in Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin.  Love’s unique brand of scoring at the rim and from deep earns him 1.4 points per shot – while Pekovic and Martin each earn 1.3.  Aside from Anthony Davis(1.35), no Pelican player scores more easily than those three Wolves.  It’s the rest of the team, however, that keep this Timberwolves team from having a dominant offense.  Brewer is okay, but the rest of the contributors – Rubio, Barea, Mbah A Moute, Cunningham – you name them, they are shockingly inefficient.  Austin Rivers, who is held up as a pillar of inefficiency (this year he’s not so bad folks) would be the fifth most efficient scorer on the Wolves.

Still, with those three capable scorers force the issue, helping the Wolves draw the fifth highest rate of free throws in the league.  Couple that with the whole teams penchant for not turning the ball over and Love and Pekovic’s dominance on the offensive boards, and they can really run away with a game.  The Pelicans will need to stay focused and keep it close.

And if they do keep it close, they will likely win.  The  Wolves have exactly zero wins by less than five points.  80% of their wins are by 8 or more.  This team either wins convincingly or loses.

So how do the Pelicans keep it close?

Keys to the Game

  • Attack the Rim.  The Wolves don’t foul, but they don’t contest either, allowing a high percentage of shots at the rim.  The Pelicans need to unleash Evans and Davis at the hoop early and often.
  • Compete on the boards.  The Pelicans are phenomenal offensive rebounders, but weak defensive ones.  The Wolves will maul opponents on both ends behind the strength of Love and Pekovic.  The Pelicans need to crash the boards from every position.
  • If Rubio is 15 feet or more from the Basket, ignore him.  Seriously.  Have his guy humping Kevin Love.  Make him shoot.

Enjoy the game!


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