NEW ORLEANS – The Pelicans tried to do the Timberwolves a favor, sitting Anthony Davis for 15-plus minutes of their 122-117 win.
New Orleans sat Davis down the stretch because it was officially his first game back from a finger injury. In reality it was his first game back after the wild world of NBA trade speculation whirled around the disgruntled All-Star.
It wasn’t because the Pelicans felt sorry for a Wolves team that is undermanned, injured and, by their own admission, fatigued after a winless three-game road trip that set the Wolves further back in the Western Conference standings. They’re a team in need of something good to happen. Nothing has as they dropped their fourth straight game.
“It’s important to be honest with guys,” Saunders said of the Wolves’ precarious playoff hopes. “And also be sure all of us are honest with ourselves individually. What that means is what can you do more of or what can you do less of to help us attain our goal of reaching the playoffs. But we’re not going to reach the playoffs by winning on Monday. We’re going to reach the playoffs if we do the right things day by day and then we win games.”
The Wolves couldn’t overcome a two-point deficit with Davis on the bench the entire fourth quarter after he torched them for 32 points and nine rebounds in 25 minutes. The Wolves got strong efforts from Karl-Anthony Towns (32 points) and Andrew Wiggins (23 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists), but their inability to get defensive stops down the stretch once again proved to be their undoing. Julius Randle got a pair of buckets inside a minute to clinch the victory.
“Hopefully the next couple days and games we get guys back healthy and making a push,” forward Taj Gibson said. “But until then, just got to keep figuring out ways to win.”
That has proven elusive of late. With Jerryd Bayless joining the list of injured point guards, Isaiah Canaan got the start while Jeff Teague toughed out 17 minutes and 12 points in his first game back from a left foot injury.
It seemed as if the Wolves would take advantage of the weird atmosphere in New Orleans, as fans booed Davis whenever he touched the ball early, similar to how Wolves fans treated Jimmy Butler after he made his trade demand. The Wolves led by 18 in the second quarter. But then their energy disappeared. So did the lead.
“Right now the bandwagon is empty,” Gibson said. “But I like it. Just got to stay with the same routine, putting your work in, stay locked in and be ready, wait for the cavalry to come. I’m hoping the cavalry does come.”
The cavalry would be the injured Wolves, such as Derrick Rose, Robert Covington and Tyus Jones. The All-Star break can’t get here fast enough, but two home games remain before the Wolves can fully lick their wounds. Those are two games the Wolves can’t afford to throw away, not after another rough week.
“We’ve been preaching that we got to win dang near every game,” Teague said. “We got to go on a streak and make a run at it. Right now, we just got to get some guys healthy. A lot of guys are out. Some of our main players. Hopefully we can get some guys back and just try to make a run at it.”
new orleans 122, wolves 117
Monday: 7 p.m. vs. L.A. Clippers (FSN)