Minnesota Timberwolves at New Orleans Pelicans
Time: 8:30 PM CT, ESPN
Spread: MIN -2
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
The New Orleans Pelicans seem to have it together now. All it took was getting back its starting point guard Jrue Holiday, who was dealing with personal issues to start the season.
Since his return, the Pelicans have gone 3-0 and have won 5 of its past 7 overall. New Orleans played last night and defeated the Atlanta Hawks in impressive fashion, but will find itself 2-point underdogs on this second half of a back-to-back as it hosts the Minnesota Timberwolves on ESPN in the second half of a double-header.
Holiday has been everything to this Pelicans team. In the three games with Holiday, the Pelicans have posted a 114.4, 109.0 and 115.1 offensive rating. The defensive ratings have improved just as much, with those games (Portland, Charlotte and Atlanta) going 100.6, 99.7, and 99.5. The talk around where Anthony Davis must go next seems to be settling down as it is now apparent the Hornets are a much better team than their woeful 0-8 start seemed to indicate.
And Davis is leading the league in scoring.
If it stays that way he will be just one of three NBA big men to have led the league in scoring since the merger (the others being David Robinson and Shaquille O’Neal). There is no doubt Davis is turning in an MVP-caliber campaign, but if the Hornets do not surge towards major respectability there is little chance he garners that honor.
Davis is averaging 30.4 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 4.63 blocks/steals per game while posting a PER of 30.5. Adding Holiday’s 19 points per game effectively gives New Orleans the second scorer it had lacked through the first part of the season. Tim Frazier has been a huge pleasant surprise in continuing the strong play he closed last season with.
The 26-year-old guard is averaging 11.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and eight assists per game, and while his minutes were though to be jeopardized by Holiday’s return, that has hardly proven to be the case. Holiday has seen 32, 36 and 35 minutes in the three games since Jrue’s return, and he had one of his best games of the season last night in the win over Atlanta.
Frazier tallied 21 points, 14 assists and five rebounds as the Pelicans controlled the Hawks without Anthony Davis the majority of the night. Davis hurt himself diving into the stands in the first quarter and did not return until the fourth, when the Pelicans had firm control over the blowout win.
Is this what we can expect from New Orleans? Atlanta is a good team by all accounts, perhaps even the second-best in the East, and The Pelicans did work to them without its leading scorer the majority of the game. Can they continue that against a tough young Timberwolves team tonight?
All eyes will really been on Karl-Anthony Towns and Davis. It is a meeting of two of the NBA’s best young bigs, or almost unarguably the two very best, and it should be a treat for casual NBA fans to see these two square off on national television. Minnesota has disappointed somewhat, but only because the hype surrounding the team was far too premature given its young and blooming cast.
Andrew Wiggins has been an absolute scoring machine, but it is beginning to look as though that may just be his calling card, in the mold of a Tracy McGrady type. He is posting 24.8 points per game in over 36 minutes a night, but averaging just 2.2 assists per game and not making any major defensive contributions.
Wiggins also has battled issues with inconsistency, though maintaining his high scoring bursts of 47-points in a game may have been asking a bit much to begin with.
Nevertheless, over the T-Wolves past two contests (losses to Boston and Memphis) he has shot just 7 of 29 and averaged 10.5 points per game.
Yes, that is stereotypical inconsistency from a 21 year old forward, but in order for Minnesota to take the steps that people feel they will, Wiggins will first have to become a go-to threat that can score 20 at least every night. And that is even with KAT posting 22 points per game of his own. To make no mistake, this is one of the most talented teams in the league, but it is just not ready, not even with Tom Thibodeau in control.
And of course, there will be those saying Thibodeau is going to wear Wiggins and Towns out with his high-minutes demands.
That remains to be seen, but for the meantime this should be a great game between two of the best young bigs the NBA has to offer.