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Minnesota’s Big Men Take Control, Put Away Hornets Late In Fourth

Offense Keeps Clicking, But Lack of Physicality Hurts Charlotte Again on Defense, Glass

Giving up a whole bunch of second-chance points nearly did the Charlotte Hornets in two nights ago in Brooklyn. Back home on Saturday evening, they struggled again on the defensive glass and this time, paid the price in a 123-117 loss to a big, physical Minnesota Timberwolves squad.

Terry Rozier (23) and Miles Bridges (22) both had 20-point showings in the loss, with PJ Washington adding 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting, seven rebounds and a season-high-tying five assists in 31 reserve minutes. Gordon Hayward (17), Brandon Miller (14) and Mark Williams (11) made it six Hornets players with double-digit points, one away from matching the season high.

Charlotte’s offense got going as the first half progressed, mixing in some smaller lineups to win the second quarter, 36-32, and enter the midway break down three. Both sides swapped good-sized runs in the third, making it a one-point Minnesota advantage heading into the fourth.

Later, with Charlotte ahead 109-108 and about three minutes remaining, Troy Brown Jr. ripped down an offensive rebound and soon canned a second-chance 3-pointer to begin a 7-0 Minnesota run. With roughly 60 seconds to go and the Hornets down three, Rudy Gobert stuffed Nick Richards’ four-foot hook shot, leading to transition and-1 for Mike Conley. This sequence essentially ended Charlotte’s chances following its ensuing empty possession.

Charlotte’s offense shot 47.8% and 48% from 3-point range (12-of-25) against the NBA’s top-ranked defensive team, plus had only eight turnovers. While the Timberwolves won the glass by just four (41-37), they converted 10 offensive boards into 22 second-chance points on 8-of-11 shooting and dropped in 26-of-30 free-throw attempts (86.7%).

“We played hard. We’ve been playing with good energy,” said Hornets Head Coach Steve Clifford afterwards. “If you do three things in this league – defend without fouling, which takes discipline and technique, run back on defense every time, which takes zero talent and if you’ll block out with physicality on every shot – all those things take not a lot of talent. They do take physicality, they take effort and you’ve got to be smart about it. Tonight, it’s the same thing… We lost because we’re not physical enough, we get outworked on the glass, and we foul.”

Added Hayward, when asked about the transition and second-chance defense, “Certainly, I think at times it’s a lack of focus, because I think we are playing hard out there. If you forget for half a second, as soon as you do that, it’s too late – your guy’s too fast and too big in this league, and all they need is a step. We lose focus on what we’re supposed to be doing for whatever reason. Sometimes you’re thinking about offense too much, thinking about a missed shot or a turnover or whatever it may be, and you didn’t get the ball. It’s that half a second that causes, sometimes, the layups or dunks.”

Minnesota got 20-point games from its big man trio of Karl-Anthony Towns (28), Gobert (season-high 26) and Naz Reid (23) in the win, its second in the past eight head-to-head meetings with Charlotte. Gobert also tallied a game-high 12 rebounds and three blocks for his 14th yearly double-double, while Conley (14 points, season-high-tying 10 assists) had his second.

The Hornets will have three full days off before taking on the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, Dec. 6 beginning at 8 PM ET at the United Center. Follow all the action on Bally Sports Southeast and WFNZ 92.7 FM.