Scouting Report: Wolves at Hornets

Alex Conover
Web Editorial Associate

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Wolves (10-9) at Hornets (5-16) at 7 PM, New Orleans Arena
Where to Watch: Fox Sports North
Where to Listen: 830 WCCO-AM


The Wolves begin a tough week when they travel south to square off against the Hornets tonight in New Orleans. Minnesota must play five opponents in the span of seven days, including back-to-backs tonight and Saturday, and tonight’s tilt can be seen on Fox Sports North and heard on 830 WCCO-AM.

The Hornets lost for the fifth time in a row when they dropped Wednesday night’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Kevin Durant matched his jersey number with 35 points, Kevin Martin added 17 and Russell Westbrook dropped 14 as the Hornets continued to slide. Bench player Brian Roberts led all New Orleans players in scoring with 16 points, and Ryan Anderson pitched in 14. First overall pick Anthony Davis scored 11 points in just his second game back from injury (stress reaction in left ankle).

The Timberwolves let the Nuggets creep back in the closing seconds Wednesday night, but strong defensive play at the end and key free throws from JJ Barea sealed the win for Minnesota, 108-105. While Kevin Love had a poor night shooting (just 3-for-17 from the field), his fellow post player Nikola Pekovic enjoyed a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Point guard Luke Ridnour also had 15 points, including the team’s only two 3-pointers.

Last Time Out: April 7, 2012

Minnesota continued to suffer after losing Ricky Rubio to injury when they lost to New Orleans 99-90—their fifth straight loss, and their 13th in 17 games.

Hornets forward Jason Smith enjoyed a career night with 26 points and 10 rebounds, just his third career double-double. Chris Kaman added 21 points and Greivis Vasquez dished out 10 assists as New Orleans rebounded from a tough loss to San Antonio a few days earlier.

Kevin Love recorded a double-double of his own with 29 points and 12 rebounds, and Michael Beasley put in 20. The Wolves, who were holding the lead late in the third quarter, let the Hornets tear off a 14-0 run. New Orleans posted a 49 percent shooting rate compared to Minnesota’s 41 percent, and the Hornets also held a 48-33 rebounding advantage.

Wolves Minute: Friday, Dec. 14

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Key Matchup: Austin Rivers and Alexey Shved

These two players were in vastly different situations as recently as this summer. Rivers was traveling the country, playing in front of NBA front offices in hopes of being picked as highly as possible in the draft; Shved was coming off a league championship in Russia and preparing to represent his country in the Summer Olympics. Rivers ended up being selected 10th overall by New Orleans, while Shved’s journey to Minnesota was quiet and unheralded.

But now, in the midst of the NBA season, these two don’t seem so different. Both are rookie guards that have stepped up in key roles for their respective clubs. Both are also sharp-shooting scorers who have an arsenal of ways to make buckets. Yet, both are also exposed at times for their inexperience; Rivers has started 11 of 20 games for New Orleans, posting weak percentages from the field (.325) and the perimeter (.324). Shved, skinny and leanly-built, is still adjusting to playing defense in the NBA, most notably giving up a game-winning shot to Kemba Walker and the Bobcats on Nov. 14.

Keep your eyes on these two, particularly as Shved gets his first career start as Malcolm Lee is sidelined with a knee injury. Rivers must have a lot better night shooting than Wednesday, where he made just 4-of-14 attempts. Shved was quiet as well in his last contest, making only 3-for-10 from the field and disappearing at times. Both rookie guards have emerged at times for their teams, and whoever does tonight might be the key to victory.

Injury Report

Guard Ricky Rubio’s return is imminent, but it won’t be in New Orleans. He remained back in the Twin Cities for this trip to receive treatment, so the earliest he could play is Saturday against Dallas. There is still no definitive timetable on his return. The Wolves also traveled without Malcolm Lee (hyper-extended right knee) and Brandon Roy (right knee surgery), while Josh Howard (illness) made the trip.

The Hornets continue to play without star guard Eric Gordon, who has not played a minute this season due to a knee injury. He is expected to be ready sometime this month.

 

Tonight's Probable Starters
PositionTimberwolvesHornets
PGLuke RidnourGreivis Vasquez
SGAlexey ShvedAustin Rivers
SFAndrei KirilenkoAl-Farouq Aminu
PFKevin LoveRyan Anderson
CNikola PekovicRobin Lopez

 


For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter, and join the conversation at WolvesNation.com.