NEW ORLEANS – You’d think there would have been anger, maybe some yelling. But there really wasn’t. Friday night in the Wolves locker room there was mainly silence. A few low voices, a few players slouched low in the chairs.
“I’m at a loss for words,” Kevin Martin said.
New Orleans delivered an opening-bell punch and the Wolves never recovered. The result was a 139-91 drubbing that had folks scrambling for the record book and the players searching for ways to explain what had happened.
It wasn’t easy.
“Really not much to say,” said coach Flip Saunders after the Wolves had absorbed the biggest loss in franchise history. “I guess the disappointing thing is we didn’t compete early. Listen, they did what they’re supposed to do [against] a team that’s been on a long road trip. They jumped on us from the beginning, and we reacted in a very negative way.’’
The 48-point loss was the biggest ever for the Wolves, surpassing the record of 42 set at Orlando Nov. 3, 2010.
The Pelicans (5-3), who went two games over .500 for the first time since late 2011 — had runs of 7-0 (to start the game), 11-0 and 7-0 in the first quarter alone on the way to a 43-19 lead. New Orleans’ 80 first-half points were a record for a Wolves opponent, and the Pelicans shot 66.7 percent, tying a record for a Minnesota foe.
The Wolves (2-6), playing in the penultimate game of a grueling road trip that ends in Dallas Saturday night, were without injured point guard Ricky Rubio and power forward Thaddeus Young, whose mother died Thursday.
But, having said all that, it doesn’t explain this.
“It was just shellshock,” Saunders said. “It was like they got hit with a haymaker, they were knocked down and they were dazed. I’ve been in this league 17 years and I’ve never seen anyone shoot like that. I could have put five chairs out on the court and they wouldn’t have shot that good.”
The Pelicans got 24 points from Jrue Holiday and 22 from Anthony Davis. Five other players scored in double figures. New Orleans shot 56-for-84 overall, 15-for-20 (75 percent) on three-pointers.
Saunders was right. The Wolves were knocked down early and never really got up.
“We have to learn from this,” said Corey Brewer, who scored 18 points off the bench. Offensively, he, along with rookies Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine, were rare bright spots. Wiggins (20 points) and LaVine (13) had career highs.
But that was the slimmest of silver linings.
“We didn’t play hard,” continued Brewer. “They kicked our butts from the beginning. Right from the beginning. And we didn’t hit back. It’s a problem. We should have fought. This is a young team, but we have to know we have to fight, no matter what’s happening. If we don’t learn we’ll have games like this a lot this year.”
The Pelicans set franchise records for points, first-quarter points, points in a half and shooting percentage. New Orleans, which missed consecutive shots only once in the first half, opened on a 20-6 run.
On a team whose main goal is player development, this is another lesson. After a loss like this the Wolves have to play again Saturday in Dallas. There is no question that game will be a mettle detector of sorts. Saunders wants his players to remember what happened in New Orleans, learn from it, but not let it weight them down.
“We have to go to Dallas and play better,’’ center Nikola Pekovic said. “I don’t know how, but that’s what we need to do. We need to stand up. Stand up and play.”