The Charlotte Hornets came into Minnesota looking to bounce back from Friday’s defeat at the hands of the Spurs. That didn’t happen. The Timberwolves scored 97 points in the first three quarters en route to a comfortable 112-94 win over the Hornets.
Hornets center Dwight Howard started the game off with a bang, throwing down an alley oop from Kemba Walker just over a minute into the game to give the Hornets an early 4-2 lead. The teams exchanged baskets, with Marvin Williams, Jeremy Lamb, and Dwayne Bacon all knocking down threes in the first six minutes of the contest. The back and forth nature of the contest continued through the remainder of the first quarter with the Hornets and Wolves ending the period tied at 28 after Jamal Crawford surprisingly missed a three point attempt at the buzzer.
Jeremy Lamb continued the Hornets hot shooting to start the second quarter with a patented Lamb eighteen footer. Over the next few possessions we saw flashes of rookie Malik Monk’s playmaking ability as he found Cody Zeller for layups in the pick and roll on two separate occasions and found Dwight Howard for a huge alley oop halfway through the quarter.
However, a quick barrage of threes from Jeff Teague and Jimmy Butler gave the Timberwolves a 54-43 lead with 3:35 left in the half. A few unfortunate officiating decisions against the Hornets combined with a series of baskets on the other side put the home team up 68-51 at the half.
The Hornets were outscored 40-23 in the second quarter. Jeff Teague poured in three of the Wolves’ five three point baskets during the quarter as the Hornets struggled to find their covers in transition. The Hornets shot respectably from the field in their own right, converting 52.6 percent of their shots from the field and five of their 13 3-point attempts. The biggest difference lied at the free throw line, where the Wolves converted 15-for-16 attempts while the Hornets only converted 4-for-10.
Jeff Teague picked up right where he left off by drilling his fourth 3 of the night just over a minute into the third quarter. The Hornets responded with a quick 5-0 run to force coach Tom Thibodeou to burn a timeout. Some hot Marvin Williams shooting was matched by some equally hot Andrew Wiggins scoring. The latter’s three point play with 5:22 remaining in the third put restored his team’s lead to 14. The Wolves gradually built that lead up to 20 before back-to-back threes from Monk and Lamb temporarily stopped the bleeding. Ultimately, the Hornets ended the third quarter down 97-79.
Some shaky play to start the 4th prompted an early timeout from Steve Clifford, obviously unhappy at the sight of his team being on the wrong end of a 7-2 run to start the final quarter. The Wolves finally seemed to cool off after that run. A technical free throw after a Hornets defensive three seconds was the only point they could muster for the next four minutes. However, the Hornets were unable to capitalize and gained no ground during that time. The margin stayed in the high teens and low twenties through the rest of the game, and the Hornets ultimately fell to the Wolves by a final score of 112-94.
By the time the game ended, the Hornets and Wolves were roughly even in the box score everywhere except for one category: free throws. The Hornets converted just 11-for-21 while the Wolves were able to knock down 26-for-30. It was a frustrating way to lose for sure. However, there were some positives to take away from this game despite the lopsided final score.
There seems to be a growing connection between Monk and Zeller. The rookie guard finished the game with 9 assists, 4 of which resulted in buckets for the Hornets backup center. Zeller had a very solid game in his own right. He pulled in 9 rebounds to complement his season high 16 points, which also paced the team on the night.
Next up on the road trip is a visit to Madison Square Garden to take on the suddenly not-terrible New York Knicks. The Knicks are winners of five out of their last six games. Kemba Walker has seemed to come alive in the garden in the past. Hopefully he recaptures that magic once again and helps get the Hornets back on the winning track.