The New Orleans Pelicans just played one of their better games of the season while short-handed.
They expect to be stronger when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.
On Monday night, the Pelicans defeated the visiting Indiana Pacers 113-93 despite the absence of their top two scorers: Zion Williamson (illness) and Brandon Ingram (toe). In addition, another starter, Herbert Jones Jr., was in health and safety protocols.
Two more key rotation players in Trey Murphy III (non-COVID illness) and Dyson Daniels (non-COVID illness) also were out.
Williamson, who has missed the last three games, said after practice Tuesday that he will play against the Wolves and head coach Willie Green said Murphy and Daniels are probable.
New Orleans gave at least 17 minutes to all nine players that were available Monday and all but one scored.
“At no point was it like, ‘Let’s try and make it a game,'” Williamson said. “It was: ‘We’re about to go out here to win this game and we’re going to execute.’ And they did that.
“We have a deep team – so many different pieces that can be utilized on any given night.”
Despite the absences, New Orleans held Indiana to 38 first-half points, the fewest it has allowed in a half this season. The Pacers’ 93 points were the third fewest the Pelicans have allowed in a game.
“We have to continue to work and build a foundation defensively because it’s sustainable,” Pelicans head coach Willie Green said. “Our offense can come and go. We didn’t shoot the ball great (45.6 percent), but we defended.”
The Pelicans have won 12 of their last 14 home games, with losses in that stretch against the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks, the top two teams in the Eastern Conference.
New Orleans has won three straight games while shorthanded, while Minnesota has lost three straight amid key absences.
All-Star Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns (calf) has missed the last month and three rotational players – Kyle Anderson (back), Taurean Prince (shoulder) and Jordan McLaughlin (calf) – missed a 113-110 loss at Miami on Monday.
The Wolves shot 54.4 percent from the floor but committed 22 turnovers. That helped the Heat take 102 shots compared to Minnesota’s 79.
“That’s 22 shots we didn’t get, so the turnovers were big,” said Minnesota’s Naz Reid, who had 21 points off the bench.
The Wolves forced Miami into a missed shot with 2.5 seconds left, but couldn’t attempt a potential tying shot because of a turnover that head coach Chris Finch called “fitting.”
“Throughout the whole game it was ups and downs,” Reid said. “We’ve got to be better within the course of the game so we won’t have to be in that position (at the end).”
Minnesota has averaged 106 points during the losing streak, which was preceded by a three-game winning streak in which it averaged 126 points. It has lost five of its last six games on the road.
“We just need to keep our minds in the right place,” said Wolves center Rudy Gobert, who was limited to eight rebounds against the Heat.
The Wolves will play the third game of a four-game road trip while the Pelicans are playing the middle game of a three-game homestand.
–Field Level Media