New Orleans Hornets (3-7) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (3-7)
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Last game: Minnesota: L, 111-100 vs Chicago, New Orleans: L, 95-85 vs Oklahoma City
On Tuesday, the Timberwolves trailed Chicago by 24 in the second quarter before roaring back to be down by 6 at half time. In the second half, they managed to tie the game at 70 before Luol Deng’s seemingly limitless supply of big shots put the Wolves away for good.
The Hornets lost by 10 to the Thunder on Wednesday which, considering both teams’ personnel, actually seems like an accomplishment. The Hornets have a solid win against the Nuggets this season, as well as a win against the Celtics that seems less and less solid as weeks go by. They also have bad losses to Phoenix and Sacramento.
The Key Questions
#1. When are the Wolves finally going to get healthy?
JJ Barea and Michael Beasley will both miss the next two games. Barea’s ankle was badly sprained against Chicago stepping on someone sitting along the baseline. Beasley remains out with a sprained foot that he suffered against Cleveland. It’s tough for a young team to gel during a season like this, but it’s even tougher when you are constantly missing players from your rotation, and the Wolves have been missing players since the second game when Barea injured himself initially.
#2. Has New Orleans adjust to THEIR new lineup yet?
No, seriously, I don’t know the answer to this question. Without Chris Paul, I’ve only watched one Hornets game this year on League Pass, and it was as forgettable a game as I’ve witnessed. I really like Eric Gordon, but the rest of this team is honestly a bit depressing. How they got to this point with a 3-7 record is a little beyond me.
#3. Will Ricky Rubio start?
Let’s make one thing abundantly clear: Ricky Rubio starting isn’t going to make the Timberwolves into a playoff contender.
BUT. If Rubio started, the Wolves might get off to a better start early, meaning they wouldn’t have to dig themselves out of a hole, which would be big, according to Rubio himself: “We are starting, like, waiting for it. We have to punch first…if they punch first, like Chicago did, we are in trouble.”
Trying to imagine Rubio in a fist fight? It’s tough, isn’t it? But he’s not wrong. It would be good for Minnesota’s confidence to play with a bit of a lead instead of trying to fight back constantly.
On the other hand, wouldn’t you love to see Rubio’s ovation if his first start was in Minnesota?
The Key Matchups
According to NOLA.com, DaJuan Summers may be starting at small forward in place of Al Farouq Aminu for the Hornets. Summers is coming off an injury, but he has been very efficient so far this year. He will be matched up against Wes Johnson at the beginning of the game, but if Derrick Williams gets some minutes at the three, Summers might struggle to guard a bigger, more athletic player like Williams.
Chris Kaman has been playing well for New Orleans. Against OKC, he led the Hornets with 17 points. Darko’s length may bother Kaman a bit, but don’t be surprised if Kaman puts up big numbers again tonight.
Eric Gordon also may torch the Wolves tonight. Wayne Ellington has been playing better, but he has never been a defensive force, and Gordon is an incredibly dangerous scorer.
It’s hard to say. On the one hand, the Hornets present tricky matchups at two positions (shooting guard and center) that the Wolves are most vulnerable. On the other hand, the rest of that Hornets lineup is incredibly mediocre.
The good news is that the Wolves are probably well rested, after having two consecutive nights off. If Minnesota can avoid another cold shooting night, there’s no reason they can’t win this game.