Charlotte Bobcats (3-25) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (13-16)[table "1" not found /]
Last game: Minnesota: L, 102-89 vs Orlando, Charlotte: L, 98-89 vs Philadelphia
The Wolves struggled against a veteran Orlando team on Monday. Orlando simply outshot the Wolves, connecting on 12 three pointers, including several run-ending daggers that helped keep Minnesota down in the fourth quarter. Kevin Love put up 19 points and 15 rebounds while Nikola Pekovic added 16-13, and played Dwight Howard well on the defensive end, but the Wolves helped doom themselves with turnovers.
The Bobcats are stuck in a 15-game losing streak. Any optimism stemming from the team’s mediocre start to the season has since faded in the negativity of their awful continuation. Rookies Kemba Walker has performed passably, scoring 21 points in the nine point loss the Sixers on Monday, but the Bobcats seem lost, and could be on their way to a historically abysmal season.
The Key Questions
#1. After a four game losing streak, is it panic time in Minnesota?
Not quite yet. Every team Minnesota lost to (Memphis, Dallas, New York, Orlando) was a good team. Yes, it would have been nice to see the Wolves prove themselves against quality competition, but none of those losses were bad.
Tonight, however, is a must win. If the Wolves drop a home game to the Bobcats, it will indicate a disturbing shift in mentality. In the first part of the season, the Wolves seemed convinced, even against teams like Miami and Oklahoma City, that they had a chance of winning. If they lose to Charlotte, it would seem as though they weren’t convinced of that anymore. It’s a slippery slope from that ledge.
#2. Is there ANY hope in Charlotte?
Absolutely. Just not with the current roster; Charlotte desperately needs some more talent. Kemba Walker looks like he can play in this league. Bismack Biyombo has shown flashes. Gerald Henderson is much improved this season. But the Bobcats really need more scoring and, quite frankly, more talent. An excellent draft pick this year (which they will absolutely be getting based on record) might go a long way.
#3. Will the Wolves ever EVER cut down on their damn turnovers?
Probably, but not by as much as we might hope. Rubio’s flashy style of play is incredibly turnover prone. As teammates begin to adjust and begin to expect his no-look passes, the turnovers will go down somewhat, but until then, don’t be surprised if they continue to happen. It’s something we will have to adjust to.
The Key Matchups
Kevin Love will either be matched up against Bismack Biyombo (if the Bobcats decide to defend him with athleticism) or Boris Diaw (if the Bobcats decide to defend him with experience). Either way, Love will probably have a good night; neither player is known for his defense.
Rubio will be matched against Kemba Walker. Walker is considerably smaller than Rubio, but he is also an excellent ball handler and incredibly quick. Rubio has shown a proclivity for defending quick point guards, so one would hope Walker won’t be any different.
If Biyombo ends up guarding Pekovic, conventional wisdom would say Biyombo could challenge Pek with his athleticism and length. But Biyombo, though more muscular than most rookies, absolutely isn’t strong enough to keep Pek out of the area where he is most dangerous. It would be good to see Pek continue his offensive onslaught.
Considering that Charlotte’s team goes essentially three deep offensively when DJ Augustin is injured (Walker, Diaw, and Henderson), it goes without saying that Minnesota’s bench is considerably deeper and more talented than Charlotte’s. When the second units take the court, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Minnesota stretch a lead.
Minnesota needs to come out with a sense of urgency tonight for several reasons. First, they need a win. They can’t afford to give this game away. Second, it’s an opportunity to give players like Derrick Williams some valuable minutes if they can maintain a decent lead.
And that, I think will be key for the Wolves. Maintaining a lead. Too often they race out to a lead and proceed to slowly give it away. The Wolves desperately need to learn how to put teams away. What better time to start than against the Bobcats?
Game starts at 7 on Fox Sports North