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Game 25, Wolves vs. Hornets: Containing Kemba

Kemba Walker leads Charlotte into Target Center tonight.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Charlotte Hornets Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Wolves (12-12) vs Hornets (11-12)
7:00 pm CST
FS North

To end the Wolves four-game home stand, they face off tonight with the feisty Charlotte Hornets.

There’s no such thing as a true “one-man team” in the NBA, since everyone who has made it this far has undoubtedly earned their way.

With that being said, it can’t be overstated how much Kemba Walker means to this Hornets team. Kemba is currently averaging 26.5/4.3/6.2. Most nights, the sole determinant factor in whether the Hornets win or lose is Kemba.

He’s become deadly shooting off the dribble, especially from behind the three-point line. If Minnesota wants to contain him, they’d be much better off taking the pull-up three away from Kemba whenever possible.

Here’s the thing about this matchup, though. With the addition of RoCo, especially given the way he defended CP3 Monday night, we have every reason to believe that he will be able to more than handle Kemba on his own tonight. That’s a lot of pressure to put on one guy, and slowing Kemba down will definitely require help from other members of the defense.

A bright spot in this game? Well, if you hate Andrew Wiggins’ max contract, the Hornets might have a worse contract currently on their books in terms of what they’re paying this year for the production on the court. They’re currently paying Nicolas Batum $24 million to give them a whopping 9 points per game.

It will be interesting to see who Charlotte inserts into the starting lineup to replace the injured Marvin Williams. Purely from an entertainment aspect, I was hoping it would be Miles Bridges. However, based on comments from Hornets coach James Borrego, it doesn’t sound like Bridges will be getting that call.

One thing to watch tonight for the real basketball nerds: Cody Zeller’s screen-setting abilities. Zeller isn’t a flashy player by any means, but he’s an effective big man mostly because of the way he hammers defenders on screens. Minnesota’s bigs may have to spend more time containing Kemba tonight as a result of the screens that Zeller will set on the Wolves’ wing defenders.

Aside from Kemba, it’s nice to see Jeremy Lamb come around a bit for this Charlotte squad. Often ineffective and inconsistent, Lamb is putting up 15/5 on a nightly basis while making over 37% of his threes. Whoever is on Lamb, presumably Teague if RoCo gets the Kemba assignment, must stay attached to Lamb. He’s their most consistent catch-and-shoot option, and there’s no doubt that Walker will be looking for him when he drives and kicks.

For Minnesota, it’s all about defense. Without a true second offensive star alongside KAT, it’s always going to be about defense.

They’ve shown they’re up to the task, evidenced by the way they held Houston to a 9 point fourth quarter Monday night.

They won’t be able to do that every quarter or every night, but the energy and activity level is what is going to be important for this team. Specifically, the activity level that Tyus and Wiggs brought on Monday night was the boost the Wolves needed. It may not be them every night, but it needs to be a few guys every night complimenting RoCo on that end of the floor.

A few other things to watch for:

  • Coming off a scoreless Monday night, it’ll be interesting to see how Derrick Rose responds.
  • Will Dario Saric earn more minutes with the way he’s been playing lately? He was a big part of that dominant second half against Houston.
  • After one of his better performances of the year, can Jeff Teague repeat that type of game? The lack of consistency from Teague hurts this team, but if he plays like he did Monday they can reach their full potential.

Projected Lineups


Jeff Teague
Andrew Wiggins
Robert Covington
Taj Gibson
Karl-Anthony Towns


Kemba Walker
Jeremy Lamb
Nic Batum
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Cody Zeller

Unrelated to this game, but there’s never a bad time to re-watch this: