Hornets Moving Forward to Face Visiting Timberwolves
By Sam Perley
Tuesday night’s heartbreaking loss to Philadelphia is now a thing of the past as the Hornets look to notch a badly-needed win tonight against the Minnesota Timberwolves starting at 7 p.m. ET.
Minnesota won the first meeting of the season, 121-104, back on Dec. 5. The Hornets led by 15 points in the first half, but the Timberwolves rallied to outscore them by 17 points in the fourth quarter to seal the win. Nic Batum and Jeremy Lamb each finished with 18 points for Charlotte, while the hosts got 35 points from Karl-Anthony Towns and another 26 from Andrew Wiggins.
Batum has been humming along quite nicely since the All-Star Break, posting averages of 13.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 3.8 APG and 1.1 SPG while shooting 42.3 percent from long range. Increased aggressiveness has been the ultimate catalyst for Batum’s production lately and the Hornets would love to see him have another balanced, all-around outing like his last game against Minnesota (also had seven rebounds and eight assists).
The Frenchman will spend some time guarding another international player in Wiggins, the top overall pick back in 2014. The Canadian-born forward is putting up 17.5 PPG on a career-low 39.8 percent shooting, but is averaging a personal-high 4.8 RPG, 2.4 APG and 0.7 BPG in his fifth NBA season. He’s coming off a 20-point outing against Golden State in which he also registered eight rebounds and six assists.
Despite the relatively underwhelming efficiency, Wiggins remains every bit a dangerous scorer with elite-level athleticism and bounce. A banged-up Timberwolves squad will probably keep turning to Wiggins as the season winds down, meaning Batum and the Hornets wings need stay in front of the Kansas product and keep him confined to the perimeter and mid-range areas.
Game Note – Charlotte has lost three of its last four games to Minnesota… Robert Covington (right knee) has not played since Dec. 31. Derrick Rose (right elbow) and Jeff Teague (left foot) have each missed four straight games, while Luol Deng (Achilles) has missed 10 straight contests for the Timberwolves… The Timberwolves have dropped eight consecutive road games.
Classic Fact – The first double overtime win in Hornets franchise history came at home against the Minnesota Timberwolves on April 12, 1991. Johnny Newman scored a team-high 25 points for Charlotte in the 111-110 victory.