NBA Basketball

Final 1 2 3 4 Tot
New Orleans 29 23 37 17 106
Minnesota 27 27 33 23 110
5:00 PM PT6:00 PM MT7:00 PM CT8:00 PM ET1:00 GMT9:00 6:00 PM MST8:00 PM EST5:00 UAE (+1)02:0020:00 ET7:00 PM CT23:00 , January 12, 2019
Target Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota  Attendance: 16,384

Healthier Pelicans facing speedier Wolves this time

According to STATS
According to STATS

New Orleans Pelicans at Minnesota Timberwolves

  1. Minnesota had won five straight games in this series before a 123-114 loss in New Orleans on New Year's Eve. The T-wolves have won their last three home games against the Pelicans.
  2. The Pelicans have averaged 129.0 points on 56.1 percent shooting during their current three-game win streak. New Orleans has made at least 50 percent of its shots in five straight games, the second-longest such streak in franchise history (seven straight in November 2017).
  3. Former Kentucky big men Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns have faced off 10 times in the NBA, each winning five times. Davis has averaged 30.1 points and 9.3 rebounds in those contests, while Towns has averaged 19.8 points and 11.3 boards.
  4. Davis has at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in each of his last 12 games, averaging 32.0 and 15.5. That's the longest such streak in franchise history, and the longest by any NBA player since Kevin Love had 13 consecutive 20/10 games with the 2013-14 Timberwolves.

The Minnesota Timberwolves and the New Orleans Pelicans played each other less than two weeks ago, but a lot has changed since then.

Most notably, the Timberwolves fired head coach Tom Thibodeau and promoted assistant Ryan Saunders to interim head coach. They won in Saunders' debut on Tuesday in Oklahoma City (119-117) but lost in the final minute to Dallas (119-115) in Saunders' home debut Friday.

The Pelicans' 123-114 victory against the Timberwolves on Dec. 31 in New Orleans started a stretch in which the Pelicans have won four of five. They have their first three-game winning streak since mid-November as they travel to Minneapolis on Saturday in the opener of a five-game road trip.

They'll see a Timberwolves team that is playing at a faster pace than under Thibodeau.

Saunders has been "trying to stress it to us since that first day, just trying to get the ball over half court quicker," guard Tyus Jones told "Letting guys make reads of the defense, playing off one another, sharing the ball, continuing to share the basketball."

This will be the second game of the second half of the season for the Wolves and the Pelicans, both of whom are playing catch-up in trying to reach the playoff spots in the tightly-bunched Western Conference.

Minnesota forward Karl Anthony-Towns said reaching the playoffs is a very realistic goal.

"I have no doubt about it in my mind that we can do that, not only eighth seed, even higher," Towns told "It's all about us putting the effort and the energy and bringing that edge every night."

Towns said he has been impressed by what he has seen from Saunders, even though he has been in his new position for less than a week.

"He's exceeded our expectations by margins," Towns added. "He's doing a great job keeping the emphasis on making sure we're being the best team possible. He's doing a great job right now.

"Ryan's more than capable of being a great head coach. We have a lot of confidence and belief in him. Being around Ryan, you realize how positive he is. Just having that positivity around all the time is great. Eighty-two games, there is going to be a lot of ups and downs. But when you have some positivity around like that, it brings you a lot of good energy."

While the Wolves hope the coaching change gives them a lift, the Pelicans are hoping the return of injured starters is putting them on the right track.

Point guard Elfrid Payton returned from a 22-game absence due to a fractured finger when he started in the last meeting with Minnesota.

Forward Nikola Mirotic returned for a 140-124 victory against Cleveland on Wednesday after missing 12 games due to an ankle injury.

"Obviously, when you miss a dozen games, your timing is going to be off," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. "He shot the ball fairly well for a guy that's been out that long, but you can also see he shoots an air ball, which he would never do."

Mirotic made 6 of 11 shots, including 4 of 7 3-pointers, as he scored 17 points in 22 minutes.

"I think (Mirotic's presence) opens up the floor," guard Jrue Holiday said. "His capabilities of being able to shoot 35 feet and the way he play-makes out of that, trying to run them off the line, it definitely makes it easier for us."

New Orleans hopes to get back forward E'Twaun Moore, who has missed the last two games because of a quad injury.

In the last game against Minnesota, the Pelicans overcame the absence of All-Star forward Anthony Davis, who was a last-minute scratch because of illness.

The Pelicans made 14 of 25 3-pointers and the Timberwolves, who had won the last five meetings with New Orleans, made 9 of 28.

--Field Level Media

Updated January 12, 2019

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