With Williams Out, Hornets Target Road Win in Minnesota

By Sam Perley

The injury bug will force the Charlotte Hornets to shuffle their frontcourt rotation a bit as they embark on a quick one-game trip to battle the Minnesota Timberwolves, which tips off tonight at 8 p.m. ET.

The visitors will be taking on a new-look, improving Timberwolves squad that has won five of its last six appearances – only one of which has come by less than double digits. Since trading Jimmy Butler to Philadelphia for Robert Covington and Dario Šarić last month, the Timberwolves rank second in the NBA in defensive efficiency (100.4) and tied for third in net rating (8.0), leading to a 7-3 record during this stretch.

Marvin Williams (right shoulder strain) will not be at the Hornets’ disposal for this outing, likely opening up more minutes for first-year forward Miles Bridges. The rookie is coming off a career-high 16 points and eight rebounds on Sunday against New Orleans and thus far, looks ready for the challenge of potentially stepping into the starting four spot with Williams out.

Doing so would mean a matchup with Taj Gibson, a 10th-year veteran who has not missed a game since signing with the Timberwolves last summer. Gibson had 15 points and a season-high-tying 11 rebounds (seven offensive) in Monday’s win over Houston and at 33 years old, is averaging 10.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and career highs in offensive boards (2.9) and steals (1.0) this season.

Game Note – Charlotte (12.0) and Minnesota (13.3) are ranked first and sixth, respectively, in the league in turnovers committed per game this season. Oddly, the Timberwolves are just 25th in turnover differential (-2.0), while the Hornets are down at 29th (-3.0).

Classic Fact – The first triple-double in Charlotte Hornets franchise history was recorded by Larry Johnson against the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 18, 1993. Johnson had 11 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in the 113-85 home victory.