· When: 4:00 PM CST
· TV: Bally Sports North Extra (Michael Grady, Jim Petersen and Katie Storm)
· Radio: 830 WCCO-AM
· Line: Wolves -5 | Total: 227 (courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
What to Watch for
Continue Attacking the Interior
During Minnesota’s five game winning streak, they’ve found a ton of success when attacking the rim and the mid-range. So far this season, the Timberwolves are shooting 70.1% at the rim (3rd highest) and 43% in the mid-range (12th highest), per Cleaning the Glass. Conversely, they are shooting just 34.5% from three (22nd). The Timberwolves aren’t the dynamic outside shooting team we saw last season, but that’s ok because they’re elite and above average in the other two levels of the floor.
When the Timberwolves regularly attack the rim and the paint, their shot selection improves, their offensive flow improves, and their ball movement improves. Their rim pressure is the straw that stirs the drink. Thankfully, the Timberwolves current offensive shot profile aligns swimmingly with what the Hornets allow.
This season, opponents are shooting 34.4% of their shots at the rim (18th), 31% of their shots in the mid-range (19th), and 34.6% of their shots from three (11th). There is always some luck that factors in with 3-point defense, but the Hornets having the third best 3-point defense (opponents are shooting only 33.2%) aligns with the fact that they are trying to take away the outside shot. Unfortunately for them, opponents are dissecting them inside the arc. The Hornets rank 28th in mid-range defense (opponents are shooting 46%) and 10th at defending the rim (63.9%). The Timberwolves entire starting five has proven all season how adept they are at scoring inside the arc, and it feels like that trend should continue.
Slow it Down and Take Care of the Ball
The Timberwolves and Hornets currently rank 9th and 11th respectively in transition frequency. That may suggest we see both teams getting out and running. Despite their eagerness to run, neither team has found much success running in transition as they rank 27th and 29th in points per play. Additionally, the Hornets are boasting the best overall transition defense.
Instead of picking up the pace, the Timberwolves should slow it down, protect the ball, and pick apart this lousy Hornets defense in the half-court. Despite their success in transition, the Hornets currently have the 19th ranked half-court defense and the 24th ranked defense defending putbacks. The Timberwolves currently rank 8th and 11th in those same categories on offense.
There shouldn’t be any excuse for the Timberwolves to not dominate on the inside against the Hornets. Whether it’s Anthony Edwards driving, Karl-Anthony Towns posting up, Rudy Gobert catching lobs and crashing the glass, D’Angelo Russell getting to his spots in the pick-and-roll, or Jaden McDaniels cutting and attacking closeouts, the Timberwolves have a plethora of ways to dismantle the Hornets in the half-court.
Defend the Rim
Similar to the Timberwolves, the Hornets will likely look to attack the rim. They currently rank third in at-rim shot frequency (38.4%), 19th in mid-range frequency (28.5%), and 23rd in 3-point frequency (33.1%). They also rank fourth in putback frequency. Their offense is designed to attack the rim frequently and in different ways.
Last season, this would be a major concern to the Timberwolves. This year, though, the Timberwolves currently rank fourth allowing opponents to shoot just 61.7% at the rim. They also have the second-best mid-range defense as opponents are shooting only 37.2%. The Timberwolves currently have the best half-court defense, but they also allow the most points on putbacks. The Timberwolves shouldn’t have many issues defending the Hornets in the regular flow of the offense, but the Hornets will crash the glass early and often. If the Timberwolves aren’t diligent about securing defensive rebounds, it could get messy.
- Kyle Anderson - Back spasms (available to play)
- Rudy Gobert - Ankle sprain (available to play)
- Jordan McLaughlin - Left calf strain
- Taurean Prince - Right should subluxation
- Gordon Hayward - Left shoulder contusion
- LaMelo Ball - Left ankle sprain
- Cody Martin - Left knee procedure
- Dennis Smith Jr - Left ankle sprain