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Game Preview #58: Wolves vs Hornets

LaMelo Ball and the Hornets are in town for a date with Anthony Edwards and the Wolves, who are looking for their seventh straight home win.

Charlotte Hornets v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Game Info

Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (30-27) vs Charlotte Hornets (29-29)
When: 7:10 pm CST
TV: Bally Sports North / NBA League Pass
Radio: 830 WCCO AM Radio
Line: Wolves -6.0 | O/U 243.5



What to Watch For

Each of the totals for the Wolves’ previous two games have set the 2021-22 NBA season record for highest total. Sunday’s record will last until tonight, when the closing total for Wolves/Hornets will be north of 243. Both teams possess high octane offenses that are fueled by a top-two pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, but the two teams are moving in opposite directions on the offensive end.

Since January 1, the Wolves hold the league’s second-ranked offense overall (120.8 offensive rating) as well as its second-ranked half court offense. The Hornets rank 20th and 28th, respectively, after ranking second and sixth from the beginning of the season up until January 1.

A major reason for Minnesota’s offensive efficiency turnaround — and Charlotte’s fall — is 3-point shooting. Since the turn of the new year, the Wolves are shooting 37.2% from deep (third) while the Hornets are converting on just 33.1% of their 3-point fires (25th).

Minnesota Timberwolves v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The Wolves should have no problem getting good looks that fit their Morey Ball, shoot-3s-and-get-to-the-rim, approach against a Hornets half court defense that ranks 26th in defensive efficiency between set plays and putbacks, according to Cleaning the Glass, largely because of how they’ve struggled to contain penetration.

With that in mind, this is a great spot for Anthony Edwards to be aggressive, turn in a great game in front of what should be a raucous Tuesday night crowd at Target Center, and propel the Wolves to their seventh straight home win.


Charlotte will look to get back on track by playing through newly-acquired big man Montrezl Harrell, whose punch will be sorrily needed with the Hornets down fellow Wolves-killer Gordon Hayward with an ankle sprain. The former Louisville standout will be playing in his third game for the Hornets. As a result of its obvious hole at center, the Hornets have been the league’s worst team in points per paint touch (0.755), second-worst team in points per post touch (0.384) and seventh-worst team in pick-and-roll big efficiency (0.81 points per possession).

Harrell will remedy all of those given his shrewd game on the inside and on the roll. James Borrego will look to have his players team out the Wolves in the half court and place Harrell in the dunker spot and in the paint waiting for dump-off passes for dunks. When he gets himself open by finding the soft spots in the defense, expect his former Louisville running mate Terry Rozier and first-time All-Star LaMelo Ball to find him every time.

Don’t be surprised if you see cross-key screens to get Harrell the ball at the front of the rim, as well, especially in two-big lineups. Charlotte executed a few of these nicely in the fourth quarter against the Grizzlies on Saturday, during which Harrell scored 14 points and led a furious comeback before the Hornets ultimately fell short.

The veteran big man’s energy is infectious. Given how the Wolves have played on defense of late, there is massive potential for Harrell to take over this game much like he did against Minnesota while he was a member of the Washington Wizards back on December 1. Harrell scored 27 points in only 21 minutes that night — a perfect highlight of what he can do against a good matchup.

Given Harrell’s athleticism, and Charlotte’s massive struggles in the half court of late, expect them to get out and run whenever possible to best utilize Ball’s otherworldly passing ability and the Wolves’ lackluster transition defense.


Status Reports

Minnesota

OUT:

  • McKinley Wright IV (left UCL injury)

Charlotte

OUT:

  • Gordon Hayward (left ankle sprain)
  • Cody Martin (left ankle/achilles soreness)
  • Jalen McDaniels (left ankle sprain)

Gambling Pick

I tweet out a gambling pick before every Wolves game over on my Twitter @jrborman13. So far this season, I am 27-29 (48%).

Tonight’s play: Montrezl Harrell over 22.5 points + rebounds + assists

  • Perfect matchup for Harrell
  • Had 35 PRA vs Minnesota on 12/1/21
  • Wolves are the worst defensive rebounding team in the league. Harrell is a beast on the offensive glass, averaging 3.1 per 36 minutes.
  • Hornets are without Hayward and need scoring, especially inside
  • Wolves have struggled against PnR of late — Harrell is very effective as a roll man