Minnesota Timberwolves (6-3) host Charlotte Hornets (5-4)
The Minnesota Timberwolves are on a four-game winning streak and are looking to continue their winning ways. They have a reasonable chance to succeed in their goal of hitting five wins in a row.
When was the last time that we were able to say that? The mid-2000s?
For the Wolves to even have a winning record at the start of the season seems like a cause for success, as many of us are unfamiliar even with the team flirting with a .500 record.
But here we are, with the Wolves about to play the Hornets on the back end of a home back-to-back series before they travel to California to play the Warriors on Wednesday.
The Wolves have been playing pretty good basketball over the last few weeks, although there are still obviously a few kinks to work out on offense and defense. The gap between success on offense and defense remains vast, as the team has the 6th best offensive rating in the league with the 29th worst defensive rating.
Jimmy Butler is still the glue that is holding this team together, even if his shots wax and wane as the game necessitates. Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins remain maddeningly inconsistent on defense (and sometimes on offense thus far). Jeff Teague is trying to solidify his role and Taj Gibson is just out there to do what needs to be done.
This has been a wild start to the season and the shortened preseason and training camp seems to be impacting every team. The two bad losses on the Wolves record, the Pistons and Pacers, might not be that bad anymore considering how those teams are playing. As for the Spurs game, that was the exact trap opening game that a team like the Wolves would fall into.
But that is enough about where we are. Tonight, the team faces a team that is trying to make their way back to the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Hornets have the opposite problem of the Wolves, as they have always had a stout defense underneath Steve Clifford, but struggle with creation on offense and are extremely reliant on Kemba Walker on that end of the court.
This year, they have become the new home for the now NBA-Journeyman Dwight Howard. Howard is now on his third team in three years, but has played well thus far this season, averaging 14.8 points, 13.1 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game on 31 minutes per match.
The Hornets have recently rattled off several impressive wins, beating the Orlando Magic, Memphis Grizzlies, and Milwaukee Bucks before falling to the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night.
Kemba Walker has been his usual transcendent self, as he is leading the team with 23.3 points per game along with 5.8 assists. Jeremy Lamb has been on fire as well, as he is averaging 18.1 points per game while shooting 45.5 percent from beyond the arc. Malik Monk, the new rookie for the Hornets have been streaky, but is still taking 5.6 threes per game and averaging 9.1 points per game.
Overall, this is going to be a competitive game of strength vs strength and weakness vs weakness. The Hornets are 4th in the NBA in not letting their opponents hit the offensive boards and are 5th best in defensive effective field goal rate.
However, the Hornets have the 21st best effective field goal rate in the league at 50.4 percent. The Wolves have the worst defensive field goal rate at an astounding 55.8 percent.
Something is going to have to give.
It is likely this game is going to be won or lost at the point guard and center position. Howard and Cody Zeller are two the best center tandems in the league and Kemba is amazing at getting to the hoop at will. These are probably the two weakest defensive positions for the Wolves and it is likely that Thibs is going to stick Jimmy Butler on Kemba as a result.
However, how Karl-Anthony Towns fares on defense may well decide this game, not to mention the Timberwolves chances of real success this season.
Projected Starting Lineups
Dwayne Bacon (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is out for personal reasons)
Prediction- Wolves 110 - Hornets 105. Without MKG, the Hornets are going to be hard-pressed to stop the Wiggins-Butler combo on offense. Wolves win a tight game on the backs of their superstar wings.