Wolves at Hornets
6:00 pm CST
The Wolves visit the Charlotte Hornets tonight who currently sit 6th in the Eastern Conference, but within striking distance of both a home playoff series or falling out of the playoffs altogether in the bunched up East. They have been hot lately, winning nine of their last 11 contests despite another season ending injury to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
They are led by Kemba Walker, who is having a break out season at lead guard, scoring 21 points a night and ranking 7th in the NBA in point guard RPM. Coach Steve Clifford has once again engineered a top 10 defense out of his various parts, and last summer's acquisition Nicolas Batum is having a positive impact in a variety of areas.
The Hornets once again show the value in not playing replacement level players; they aren't exactly loaded with stars, but they don't run guys out there who actively hurt them either. That's enough to be a competitive team on a nightly basis even if it isn't going to result in championships.
This was apparent in the first meeting of these teams back in November at Target Center, a 104-95 Hornets win (that both Ricky Rubio and Andrew Wiggins missed). Despite missing two vital pieces of the starting lineup, the Wolves starters were successful against the Hornets, but their bench play was the difference with Jeremy Lin, Cody Zeller, and Jeremy Lamb all having big games.
Things have moved around for the Hornets since then; they acquired Courtney Lee from the Grizzlies at the trade deadline and he is now starting at off-guard, they have moved a once again healthy Al Jefferson to the bench, but they are still getting terrific production from a second unit that now features Lin, Lamb, Jefferson, and rookie Frank Kaminsky.
The Wolves, of course, often struggle with their bench unit in the game, so it will be vital for that group to hold its own as much as it's on the starters to outplay the Hornets.
This is not a great match up for the Wolves, as the things they do well on offense: getting to the line and grabbing offensive rebounds, are the things the Hornets are best at denying; they are among the top teams in defensive rebounding (2nd in Dreb%) and in not conceding free throws (opponents shoot 4th fewest). It puts a lot of pressure on the Wolves perimeter shooting, not generally their strength despite some better performances as of late.
It's a tough couple of days for the Wolves as they fly home immediately after tonight's game to face the Spurs at home tomorrow, which will be their 4th in five nights. Hopefully they can be competitive.
Our blogging buddies are over at At The Hive. Be excellent.
Enjoy Chat. Go.