Hornets.com postgame: Timberwolves 113, Hornets 102

By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer

Timberwolves (11-9), Hornets (5-17)

It was over when… J.J. Barea drove into the middle of the lane and scooped in a layup at the rim, giving Minnesota a 107-93 lead with 1:59 remaining and causing New Orleans to call a full timeout. The Hornets dropped their sixth consecutive game. It was tied at halftime, but the Timberwolves used a 32-23 push in the third quarter to take command. New Orleans will have to try to end their losing skid on the road, with the next four games all taking place in the arenas of Western Conference foes. 

Hornets MVP: It took Austin Rivers less than one half of basketball to surpass his previous career high, which had been 15 points. By intermission Friday the rookie already had racked up 19 points. He finished with 27 against the Timberwolves, four more than he had scored in any two-game stretch all season. The shooting guard has struggled big-time with his perimeter shot, but was 5-for-6 from three-point range Friday. He’s had difficulty making floaters and mid-range jumpers, but hit those as well en route to going 9-for-14 from the floor. “He’s starting to get some confidence,” head coach Monty Williams assessed. “This is what we thought he could do. He scored the ball from many areas – driving the ball, knocking down threes. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t complement that win a win. He works at it. He’s been through a tough time. Most people thought he would come out of the gate and be Austin Rivers from Winter Park (his high school in Florida). But he’s starting to find his areas. Coach (Dave) Hanners and Coach Fred (Vinson) have helped him with his shot, staying balanced. He’s been working at it. I look for him to do more of this.”

Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: Brian Roberts scored a quick nine points in the fourth quarter, enabling the Hornets to threaten to make a run at the Wolves late. Roberts drilled a pair of two-point jumpers, sandwiched around a three-pointer. He’s now shooting a team-best 42.5 percent from three-point range (yes, even better than Ryan Anderson, who is at 42.0, though obviously in far fewer attempts).

The buzz on… a return to woes on the defensive end. After two games in which the Hornets lost but held the Wizards and Thunder to just 77 and 92 points, respectively, the performance at that end of the floor took a downward turn. Williams spoke extensively postgame about his discontentment with again giving up over 100 points. It’s going to be a tall order for the Hornets to do that regularly and still win games, as evidenced already this season by their record of 0-11 when they allow triple digits. “Our defense is not even close to what we’re used to around here,” said Williams, now in his third year at the helm. “That’s a reflection of me and my coaching. I have to do a better job, and figure out which guys are going to get in there and fight for this organization. That’s not something we’re seeing on a consistent basis.” Given an opening by a reporter to blame some of the problems on being shorthanded, Williams responded, “It doesn’t matter who’s playing. You’ve got to do your job. We talked about backdoor cuts in the pregame. Coach (Bryan) Gates said it until he was blue in the face. Our small forwards were absolutely atrocious guarding the backdoor cut tonight. That’s a lack of focus. You can blame it on youth for a little while, but that’s just a lack of focus.”