We have a full slate of NBA action on Thursday in the first real day on the schedule since the All-Star Game. There were only a couple of games on the schedule last night, so not much of a big welcome back to the regular season. The Minnesota Timberwolves look for improvements after a rough first-half. They went into the All-Star break with a record of 7-29.
In their defense, the Timberwolves were playing without Karl-Anthony Towns for a decent stretch of the season. However, that doesn’t explain how the Timberwolves lost nine straight games going into the break. Towns was active for the majority of those games, so he was unable to carry the load on his shoulders alone.
The Timberwolves embarrassed themselves at home to conclude the first-half of the season. They were pounded by a score of 135-102 against the Charlotte Hornets on March 3. It was a struggle for the Timberwolves to get on track, as has been the case since beating the Toronto Raptors on February 14, 116-112.
The Timberwolves haven’t won since then, and haven’t been competitive in several of their previous nine outings. In their last three games, the Timberwolves have lost by an average of 22.6 points per game. That is not what anyone would consider being competitive. The goal for the Timberwolves is just to show signs of improvement in the second-half.
It would be nice to see Towns step up and improve as a defender. He’s shown some positives since entering the NBA, but moving along a little slower than some would have hoped. For a guy his size, Towns has to be more assertive in the paint with more effort. Towns owns an abysmal defensive rating of 115.4. That must improve or the Timberwolves are going to continue to give up lots of points.
The New Orleans Pelicans are coming off a tough stretch of their own, with losses in four of their previous five games before going on the break. After a huge upset over the Utah Jazz, 129-124, the Pelicans fell against the Chicago Bulls, 128-124, and Miami Heat, 103-93. They head into the second-half with a record of 15-21, though the future looks bright for this young team. Head below for our free Timberwolves vs. Pelicans pick on March 11, 2021.
Minnesota Timberwolves vs. New Orleans Pelicans NBA Betting Odds:
Timberwolves vs. Pelicans Prediction:
The Timberwolves will be able to win in spots in the second-half, but if they continue to play with no energy defensively, it’s hard to see them stop the bleeding and improve. They were gashed for 117 points per game to put them at 28th in the NBA defensively. If Towns is just going to stand there in the paint like a giant unathletic statue, then expect the losses to pile up in the second-half.
The defense has struggled even more on the road, with an average of 120 points conceded per game. New Orleans is capable of lighting up the scoreboard, so a similar effort would not be sufficient tonight. Minnesota doesn’t have the offensive firepower on their roster to make up for such a porous defense.
Ricky Rubio would be a fine addition on a team with depth, but he is kind of lost in Minnesota without much support. A trade featuring Rubio wouldn’t be that much of a surprise. He’s frustrated and could probably help a contender that needs a guard. The Timberwolves are scoring just 107.9 points per game for 24th in the NBA. The Pelicans will look to run away with this game with their offense, which features a bevy of young talent, including Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and Lonzo Ball.
Williamson missed the loss against the Bulls before the All-Star break, but is expected to be a full participant against the Timberwolves. He leads the Pelicans with 25.6 points per game, and continues to get better. Before the Pelicans reach the next level, though, they have to learn to play better defense. Look at what happened to the Phoenix Suns when they learned how to play defensive basketball.
The offense was always there for the Suns with Devin Booker on the roster, they just needed the defense to come through, which has happened in 2020-21. New Orleans is fifth in the NBA with 115.5 points per game and 48.4% from the field, so the offense is present. Note that the Timberwolves are 27th in the league, with opponents shooting 47.9% against their defense. I expect good things from the Pelicans in the second-half of the season. Starting off with a 125-112 win over the Timberwolves looks about right.