Scouting Report: Wolves vs. Hornets

Wolves (21-20) vs. Hornets (9-31) - 7 PM Target Center
Where to Watch: NBA TV
Where to Listen: 830 AM WCCO

*Get your questions on the radio airwaves during halftime! Just tweet questions to @WolvesRadio and listen to the halftime show hosted by John Focke on WCCO 830 AM.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are about to head on their longest road trip of the season, a seven-game trip spanning 14 games. The Wolves will take on the New Orleans Hornets tonight in the final game of a four-game homestand, and it’s an important matchup for Minnesota to head off on the road with a victory.

The Wolves beat New Orleans 87-80 on the road in January, and a victory tonight would give them a 3-1 stretch at home this week. The Wolves have won eight of their past 12 games, and prior to Friday’s 105-102 loss to the Lakers they had won five straight home games for the first time since the 2006-07 season.

Meanwhile, New Orleans is coming in on a four-game losing streak. This is the final stop on their four-game road trip—their most recent game being a 110-97 loss to the Nuggets on Friday. New Orleans has struggled throughout the season, having gone through three losing streaks of six games or more. They are 5-15 on the road this year, while the Wolves are 12-11 at home.

Last time out

Minnesota picked up an 87-80 win over the Hornets in New Orleans on Jan. 13, battling through a slow start in the first quarter and a late surge in the fourth quarter by the Hornets to pick up the win. Forward Kevin Love was the catalyst, scoring 34 points and adding 15 rebounds on the night while hitting 17-of-18 free-throw attempts. Meanwhile, rookie Ricky Rubio made his first career start and scored 12 points while dishing out nine assists. For the Hornets, guard Marco Belinelli finished with a team-high 20 points, center Emeka Okafor had 16 points and 14 rebounds and DaJuan Summers had 11 points.

Injury woes for the Wolves

Minnesota went through a series of bad news on Friday, beginning with the guard JJ Barea being unavailable with a sprained left ankle. Minutes before gametime, forward Kevin Love was scratched from the starting lineup and listed as doubtful for their game against the Lakers with back spasms—which coach Rick Adelman said were related to Wednesday’s win over the Trail Blazers—and he did not play in the game. Then, with 16 seconds left in the game, guard Ricky Rubio got tangled up with Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and suffered a left knee injury. Rubio is scheduled to be evaluated today, as is Love, and with no shootaround schedule for the morning the Wolves should have an indication on if either will be able to play tonight later in the afternoon.

If Love is unable to go, rookie forward Derrick Williams will likely get his second straight start at power forward. Williams filled in admirably for Love on Friday, finishing with 22 points and 10 rebounds on the night. He teamed with center Nikola Pekovic to pull down 23 of the team’s 34 rebounds in the game. Meanwhile, if Rubio and Barea are unable to play Luke Ridnour will get the nod at point guard for the Wolves. Adelman would likely have the decision of starting Martell Webster, Wayne Ellington or possibly Wes Johnson at shooting guard—with Michael Beasley an option at small forward—in the potential absence of their regular two point guard set. Rookie guard Malcolm Lee, who was recalled from Sioux Falls of the NBA Development League on Friday, could also see his first regular season action if both Barea and Rubio are unable to go.

Pekovic standing strong

With Love’s presence out of the lineup on Friday, Pekovic put together strong performances in areas Love generally takes on in games. He was aggressive around the basket and got to the free-throw line—he finished 9-of-10 from the stripe against L.A.—while also leading the team with 25 points and 13 rebounds. On a night where Minnesota was outscored 54-40 in points in the pain, Pekovic did his part by hauling in a game-high six offensive rebounds.

Offensive woes for the Hornets

New Orleans has battled its own injury struggles this season, and it has cost them on the scoreboard. The Hornets are averaging 88.5 points per game this season, second worst in the NBA behind the Charlotte Bobcats. Shooting guard Eric Gordon, who they acquired from the Clippers in the Chris Paul trade, has played two games this season and underwent surgery on his right knee in February. Point guard Jarrett Jack has been the team’s top performer this year, scoring 14.8 points per game while dishing out 5.8 assists on the season.

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