The Timberwolves had an impressive win against Milwaukee on Thursday, disposing of them 108-89. Jimmy Butler had 28 points and six assists in the victory, while Karl-Anthony Towns scored 24 points on an efficient 10-13 shooting.
They now have a record of 33-22, and are sitting just a game and a half behind the Spurs in third position in the west. They are 21-6 at home, and on Saturday will welcome New Orleans to Minnesota.
The Pelicans had a terrific victory against the Thunder on Friday, winning 114-100. Anthony Davis was dominant with 43 points and ten boards, while E’Twaun Moore went 4-4 from beyond the arc on his way to 26 points.
The win left them at 27-23, and further bridged cemented them in the top eight in the Western Conference.
Three keys to the game
Pelicans’ schedule - New Orleans had a tough game in Oklahoma City on Friday, and will fly overnight to Minnesota for this game. They have been solid in the second leg of back-to-backs so far this season - they are 3-4 in such games - but have been handed a tough schedule here.
Points off turnovers - Minnesota score a lot of points in this way - their 18.5 per game is less than only OKC and Atlanta. On the other side of things, the Pelicans concede 17.9 points off turnovers a night, more than all but five sides. If they don’t take care of the basketball, the Timberwolves will make them pay.
Boogie-less New Orleans - The DeMarcus Cousins injury sent shockwaves through New Orleans, and will have a major impact on the way the Pelicans play for the rest of the season. After losing their first two games without him, they were impressive in beating the Thunder, but it required 43 points from Davis. Things will no doubt be tougher without him, but this will be another good test to see how they can cope.
Matchup to watch
Karl-Anthony Towns vs Anthony Davis - Davis has been cast into the role of center since the injury to Cousins, and as such will face up against Towns in this game. Towns is having a somewhat down year by his standards, but was still selected for the All-Star Game on the back of 19.9 points, 12.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.5 blocks, and is connecting on 40.2% of 3-point attempts, comfortably a career high. Davis will start the All-Star Game in a season in which he averages 26.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.3 blocks. This will be a great matchup between two of the league’s elite big men, and should be compelling viewing.
Minnesota Timberwolves predicted starting lineup
PG - Jeff Teague | SG - Andrew Wiggins | SF - Jimmy Butler | PF - Taj Gibson | C - Karl-Anthony Towns
New Orleans Pelicans predicted starting lineup
PG - Rajon Rondo | SG - Jrue Holiday | SF - E’Twaun Moore | PF - Dante Cunningham | C - Anthony Davis
Butler has played 13 times against New Orleans, and in these games he averages 18.5 points on 50.6% shooting, 3.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.2 steals.
Towns averages an impressive career double-double against the Pelicans. He puts up 20.9 points while shooting 54.4% from the floor and 46.4% from beyond the arc, and grabs 11 rebounds. He also contributes 2.2 assists and a block a night in these games.
Davis’ 23.5 points a night against Minnesota come at 57.1%, well above his career average of 51.7%. In these games he also contributes 8.1 rebounds, two assists, 1.6 blocks and 1.5 steals.
The Pelicans have been given no love in this game, having been handed an 8.5 point head start by odds makers. Though the Timberwolves will probably get over the line, 8.5 is too big a deficit for them to make up. Take the Pelicans to cover this line.
This will be an intriguing game between two teams with distinctive game styles. Davis will need to put in a huge performance if New Orleans are to have a chance, and back him to have 30+ points and 10+ rebounds.
He will be the best player on the floor, but the Timberwolves have a much better and more well-rounded starting lineup. They will be able to get over the line against a tired New Orleans, and will run out 106-100 winners.
The game will be broadcast locally on Fox Sports North East and FSNOLA. Tip-off is at 9pm ET.