Where: Spectrum Center, Charlotte, North Carolina
When: Saturday, December 3, 2016, 7:00pm EST
How to Watch: Fox Sports Southeast, Fox Sports North
Since bringing back the buzz in the summer of 2014, the Charlotte Hornets have yet to lose to the Minnesota Timberwolves. In five meetings, the Hornets are 5-0, with the largest margin of victory being 25 points in January 2015, and the closest matchup a five point win in March 2016.
So what should we expect on Saturday night at Spectrum Center?
Minnesota sits 5-13 and in 14th place in the Western Conference. Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Zach LaVine make for a dynamic, young, “Big Three” in Minnesota, but the “young” part of that description is what sticks out in 2016. Head coach Tom Thibodeau has tried to put the team together, but the record speaks for itself: early returns have not been kind.
Part of that has been because of the decline of Ricky Rubio as a legitimate option. Thibodeau has taken away a lot of plays for “The Spanish Unicorn,” instead opting to develop Wiggins and company in the offense. But Rubio’s shooting is below his usual poor standards, and he seems to have lost a step on defense as well.
The Wolves need Rubio to play well to justify his presence on the team, and at this point, you can’t argue that he has. The problem? The Wolves don’t really have any other options, outside first round pick Kris Dunn, who doesn’t seem to be ready for the role just yet.
The Wolves have lost six of their last seven, but Thursday night’s game against the Knicks was close: Towns put up a bruising 47 points, but the Knicks escaped Minnesota with a two-point victory, 106-104.
KAT on whether he thought he did enough in tonight's loss.— Tim Faklis (@timfaklis) December 1, 2016
KAT had 47 pts (22 shots) and 18 rbs. Wins are all that matter to him.
They have a lot to be excited about in Minnesota... but not this season.
The Hornets, on the other hand, have bounced back from a string of defeats to the West’s top teams to win three of their last four, beating the Dallas Mavericks in an ugly but effective 97-87 win on Thursday night. They’re sitting in 4th place in the East with an 11-8 record. Again in contrast to the Wolves, everything seems to be clicking for the Hornets, as even the pairing of Roy Hibbert and Spencer Hawes is outperforming expectations.
In the game tonight, points in the paint will be key. As proven during the loss at New Orleans before Thanksgiving, a dominant big man can be kryptonite for the Hornets, and KAT can certainly be that.
But unlike that game, the Hornets’ full compliment of big men are available: Cody Zeller, Hibbert, and Hawes will all see minutes against Minnesota, as only Marvin Williams looks to be out for the game.
No new injuries reported by @hornets . Marvin Williams only player out for game versus Timberwolves.— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) December 2, 2016
With Dallas (again), Detroit (again), and Orlando on the docket next week, Kemba and company could possibly put together a string of wins to bring their record to 15-8 before a Saturday night game at Cleveland, but that’s getting ahead of ourselves. First up: the lowly Timberwolves, and a chance to show the young guns from Minnesota what a successful, playoff-bound team looks like in December 2016.