When: 8:00 pm EST
Where: Target Center; Minneapolis, MN
How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
Monday night’s 87-76 win over the Detroit Pistons featured some terrifying basketball from both sides, but it started a new winning streak for the Hornets to carry into tonight’s matchup with the Timberwolves in Minnesota.
It might require jogging the memory to recall, but the Wolves and Hornets have already played each other this season. It was the second game of the year, all the way back on Oct. 25, and the Hornets lost 121-99. Long before his breakout, Devonte’ Graham buried six 3-pointers on his way to a team-high 24 points off the bench while PJ Washington put up 10 points and 10 boards for his first career double-double. As most teams tend to, the Hornets struggled to contain Karl-Anthony Towns. He dropped 37 points (13-18 FG), grabbed 15 rebounds, dished out eight assists and tallied four steals and two blocks. Not a bad showing for the big man.
After their trade deadline roster shuffle, only five of the Wolves that played in the first matchup of the season are still on the team. They’ve united Towns with his best pal D’Angelo Russell, while acquiring Jacob Evans and Omari Spellman in exchange for Andrew Wiggins. They also brought in Malik Beasley, Evan Turner, Juancho Hernangomez (brother of Willy Hernangomez), James Johnson, and Jarred Vanderbilt. Needless to say, it’s not the same Wolves team as the first go-round. They’ve gone 1-1 since the flurry of moves, starting with a 142-115 dismantling of the Clippers followed by a 137-126 loss to the Raptors.
Evan Turner (non-injury related) is listed as out on Minnesota’s injury report, though it’s probably because he and his agent are negotiating a buyout. Jake Layman (toe) missed Monday’s game against Toronto, and will likely be a game-time decision tonight against the Hornets. Update: Karl-Anthony Towns (left wrist) has been downgraded to out. He underwent an MRI on his wrist yesterday and will be re-evaluated over the All-Star break.
Cody Martin (concussion) remains the lone solider on Charlotte’s injury report. I hope his nose is all right.
Both teams come into this game in a very similar position. The Wolves went on a depressing 13-game slide before correcting it in Los Angeles, and are winners of just two of their last 17 games. Over the same stretch, the Hornets are 4-13 and have losing streaks of five and eight games. Both of these teams are bad, and this game could have some draft lottery implications at the season’s end, assuming both squads stay on their current paths.
The new-look Wolves are still gelling, so this could be an opportunity for the Hornets to win consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 2 and 4. The Russell/Towns pick-and-roll combo will surely cause trouble for the Hornets, who typically struggle against teams with competent guard/big man play. This is the first home game for Minnesota’s new acquisitions, so it’s highly possible the energetic crowd and upstart Wolves put the Hornets in a coffin in the first quarter and slowly nail it shut over the course of two and a half hours. We’ve seen it all with this team, it’s useless to try and predict outcomes. If they win, fine, and if they lose, also fine. That might be the new motto for the rest of this Hornets season.
For the somewhat-new-look Hornets, it’s their second game sans Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marvin Williams. With Cody Martin sidelined, Jalen McDaniels and Caleb Martin should both be in for some extended run. Both players look the part of an NBA rotation piece so far, but McDaniels looked especially-solid in Detroit. The Wolves’ big man rotation has thinned out and gotten a bit smaller since they made those trades, so this might be his best matchup so far. When he adds some muscle, he could have a bright future as a mobile, floor-spacing catch-and-shoot forward. Every (successful) modern NBA rotation needs forwards that can shoot threes without being a high-usage player.
Might I add; I wrote about why McDaniels should get minutes with the Hornets earlier in the month, and not to toot my own horn, but it seems as if I was right. What a shame. Hate when that happens. Good for Jalen, though, making the most of his opportunity in the early-going.