NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy took his team to task after Thursday night’s 135-105 loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves, calling its defensive performance inadequate.
Look, I understand it’s my fault and what we set up defensively is frankly uncomfortable, Van Gundy said. We all need to take charge. It’s largely my fault, and largely the fault of our players, who also need to take responsibility. We weren’t competitive today, and that’s the problem.
We weren’t in competition. We didn’t help each other. We didn’t play together on either side of the field. A very unpleasant night for us tonight.
The Pelicans looked like a team on a playoff mission for the first eight minutes of the game – going into the first quarter with a 16-point lead. They were defeated 125-79 in the final 40 minutes of the game.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Timberwolves are only the second team in the last 25 seasons to win a game by at least 30 points after trailing by at least 15 points, following the Chicago Bulls game on the 23rd. December 1996 against the New Jersey Nets.
Minnesota also became the third team to win a game by at least 30 points after a winning percentage of less than .200 after 30 games on the season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The last team to do so was the Cleveland Cavaliers in January 1971.
Van Gundy said the Pelicans had the worst offensive game in their recent history, but he blamed the loss on the defense, which ranks second in the league in defensive rating.
We didn’t move the ball very well, and frankly we’re so bad defensively that we can’t have a bad offensive night, Van Gundy said. We can’t even have a mediocre evening. If you have a bad offensive night, you get crushed, like tonight.
The Pelicans shot 43.0% from the field and made 6 of 32 three-pointers. They also struggled at the free throw line, converting 13 of 24 free throws.
Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns had a bad night – 16 points, seven rebounds, 7-of-19 shooting and 2-of-10 three-pointers – but Anthony Edwards (27 points) played a big role, Jaylen Nowell (28 points, 11-of-13 shooting, 6-of-7 shooting) and Jayden McDaniels (20 points, 8-of-9 shooting, 4-of-5 shooting) contributed.
For Timberwolves coach Chris Finch, it was his first win in six games since becoming his first NBA head coach last month.
The Timberwolves] played well and were inspired by the game. We didn’t seem to care, Van Gundy said. We got what we deserved. When I say we, I’m not putting it all on the players. I’m a big part of it too, but I’m not about to give up. We all are.
Van Gundy said he doesn’t know why his team lacks the fighting spirit and energy they showed before the break, even in defeat. But he pointed out that it started on Wednesday, when the team returned from the All-Star break.
We had no energy in practice yesterday either, Van Gundy said. It was one of the worst practices of my career. I don’t know. Sometimes the weekend makes you lazy. It clearly helped them and not us. It was a bad, bad performance. We’ll see if we can play much better tomorrow night.
Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram said the team was a little rusty coming back from the break, but at 15-22, he knows the Pelicans don’t have much time left if they want to make the playoffs.
There are only 35 games left and we want to be in the playoffs, so we have to work at it, Ingram said.
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