MINNEAPOLIS — Without Anthony Davis blocking shots, grabbing rebounds and playing like an All-Star, the New Orleans Pelicans’ winning ways came to a slow and painful end.
Davis missed Wednesday night’s 88-77 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center with a dislocated left index finger and the Pelicans had their three-game winning streak ended.
The Pelicans’ 75 points were a season low and their 35.4 percent shooting their worst since a loss at Orlando in the second game of the season.
It looked like it was going to be a long night for the Pelicans when Greg Stiemsma, starting in place of Davis, accidentally tipped in a shot attempt by Kevin Love in the first quarter. The Pelicans turned the ball over on their first three possessions, missed their first four shots, and needed four minutes to score their first point.Al-Farouq Aminu led the Pelicans with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Eric Gordon added 14 points and Tyreke Evans 11 off the bench.
Davis dressed for the game and joked with teammates during pre-game warm-ups, but watched the game from the end of the bench with his finger wrapped heavily in white tape.
The Wolves wasted no time in taking advantage of the NBA’s leading shot blocker being out of the game and attacked the Pelicans inside early.
The Wolves scored 10 points in the paint and led by as many as 12 in the first quarter. The Pelicans started 6 of 22 from the field, but managed to cut the deficit to 4 after a Gordon layup with 2:38 left in the first half.Sparked by a 3-pointer from Kevin Martin, the Wolves closed the half on an 8-0 run and led 47-35.
The Pelicans 35 first-half points matched their season low, set previously against Orlando on Nov. 1.But the Pelicans, who were missing Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday in addition to Davis, wouldn’t go away.
A pair of free throws from Stiemsma cut the deficit to 57-54 with 5 minutes left in the third quarter and the Pelicans bench came to life.
The Wolves were playing without center Nikola Pekovic (ankle), also a possible All-Star selection, and struggled to defend the rim. After their slow start, the Pelicans started attacking inside and turned the game into a physical grind where every shot was contested and nothing came easy.
After three quarters, Minnesota led 67-62. The Pelicans made just 35 percent of their shots up to that point, but the Wolves weren’t much better at 39 percent.Unfortunately for the Pelicans, the Wolves came out hot to start the fourth quarter and the Pelicans shooting woes continued.
Kevin Love led Minnesota with 30 points and scored six straight to start the final quarter as the Wolves opened up a 75-62 lead and never looked back.
Stiemsma finished with three points and 12 rebounds filling in for Davis. It was the second consecutive game that Stiemsma, who played in Minnesota last season, tallied double-digit rebounds.Tyreke Evans scored six points in the first quarter, but made just 4 of his 15 shots in the game.
The Pelicans haven’t won at the Target Center their last four tries and couldn’t pull of a victory despite their nemesis Ricky Rubio being a non-factor. Rubio — only a 35-percent shooter overall — has averaged 13 points on 65 percent shooting in his last three against the Pelicans.
In foul trouble most of the second half on Wednesday, Rubio made just 1 of 4 shots and finished with five points.
Pelicans coach Monty Williams expects Davis to return on Saturday when his team will try to get back on track at home against Chicago in a game that kicks off a four-game homestand.