Scouting Report: Wolves at Hornets

Alex Conover
Wolves Editorial Associate

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Wolves (16-16) vs Hornets (10-25) — 7:00 PM New Orleans Arena
Where to Watch: Fox Sports North
Where to Listen: 830 WCCO-AM

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Minnesota dropped the first installment of their four-game road trip when they lost 106-84 to Oklahoma City on Wednesday night. Alexey Shved led all Wolves with 18 points. Nikola Pekovic had another double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Ricky Rubio recorded seven assists in nearly 22 minutes, his season high in playing time.

New Orleans will look to exact revenge on visiting Minnesota, as the Hornets lost 113-102 to this squad on Dec. 14. The Wolves had good luck against New Orleans last time—as they scored their second-highest point total of the season and got 31 from Pekovic—and they will hope to bounce back after the Thunder loss. Tonight’s tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on Fox Sports North and 830 WCCO-AM.

New Orleans Breakdown

After only winning seven of their first 32 games, the Hornets have embarked on a three-game winning streak, beating all three Texas teams in the Mavericks, Spurs and Rockets. All three opponents are quality squads, and it just speaks to the parity in the NBA and New Orleans’ young talent. Just four of the Hornets’ top 13 scorers are older than 24.

The Hornets are led in scoring by Ryan Anderson, a lanky, shooting forward who is averaging 17.1 points per game and 40 percent from deep. Anderson was acquired in a summer sign-and-trade with Orlando, and he is averaging a career year in minutes and scoring percentages. Next to him is Eric Gordon, a guard who has struggled with knee injuries but made his season debut on Dec. 29—scoring 24 points—and has played in five games since then. He will start at shooting guard.

Running the point is Greivis Vasquez, a guard who has started every game this season and averages 14.1 PPG and 9.1 assists per game. Vasquez is enjoying a breakout year, recording season high averages in nearly every category. 2012 No. 1 overall draft choice Anthony Davis lines up at power forward and leads the team in rebounding (8.1 per game); Robin Lopez has started every game at center to round out the starting lineup.

Last Time Out: December 14, 2012

Minnesota bullied New Orleans down low and scored a whopping 70 points in the paint as they defeated the Hornets 113-102 on December 14, 2012.

Nikola Pekovic led all scorers with 31 points on 14-of-18 shooting, and Andrei Kirilenko (21 points, 11 rebounds) and Luke Ridnour (15 points, 10 assists) each added double-doubles to help pace Minnesota. The Wolves shot 53 percent from the field and 40 percent from outside.

New Orleans had a nice offensive night of their own, led by rookie Austin Rivers who hoisted a season-high 27 points (including five 3-pointers). Ryan Anderson pitched in another 20, and Grievis Vasquez dished out an amazing 16 assists to go with 15 points.

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Key Matchup: Anthony Davis and Dante Cunningham

High expectations come with being selected No. 1 overall. The expectations grew when Davis was selected to participate in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games; the 19-year-old earned a Gold Medal among the best players in the NBA. So far this season, Davis has been slightly hampered by injuries, but he has recorded five double-doubles so far and leads his team in rebounding (8.1 per game) and blocks (1.9 per game). Which version of Davis will show up against Minnesota? The dominant one who put up 28 points and 11 rebounds against Milwaukee on Nov. 17, or the one who recorded just a single basket against Dallas on Jan. 5?

Much is asked of the player who replaces a NBA All-Star in the starting lineup, and that player for Minnesota is Dante Cunningham. With Love out for a considerable stretch, Cunningham will be holding down the power forward spot with Derrick Williams. Despite recording only eight points total in the two games, Cunningham arguably clinched wins against Phoenix and Atlanta with steals on late inbounds passes. He’s a veteran that does the little things, and this is his chance to shine in a starting role.

Injury Report

The Timberwolves missed guard J.J. Barea’s energy off the bench on Wednesday in Oklahoma City as Barea was inactive due to back spasms. He is listed as doubtful for tonight’s game, shortening the list of options that could be available for the Wolves tonight in the back court. On Wednesday, some of the back court combinations included moving Derrick Williams to 2-guard for a stretch. The Wolves are still awaiting word on whether or not coach Rick Adelman will coach tonight as well. He’s been absent the past two games to be with his wife, who is in the hospital.

The Hornets have had their share of injuries this season, particularly with shooting guard Eric Gordon, but they are listed as being healthy tonight against the Wolves. No injuries to report.

 

Tonight's Probable Starters
PositionTimberwolvesHornets
PGLuke RidnourGreivis Vasquez
SGAlexey ShvedEric Gordon
SFAndrei KirilenkoAl-Farouq Aminu
PFDante CunninghamAnthony Davis
CNikola PekovicRobin Lopez

 


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