UPDATE (12/14 @2:05pmCT): News came this afternoon that Malcolm Lee is out indefinitely with a right knee injury (you can find that full story under the 'News' section). As such, the Wolves will need a new starting shooting guard and according to multiple sources Alexey Shved will get his first career NBA start and I think it's safe to assume he'll be at the two-guard spot for quite some time. This also means that come tomorrow, we could get our first look at that Rubio-Shved backcourt in the starting lineup. Also, Josh Howard participated in the morning shootaround and will play tonight in New Orleans.
I wouldn't expect the Minnesota Timberwolves to continue to fare well when their best player (Kevin Love) goes 3-for-17 from the field and contribute only 8 points. The rest of the Wolves were able to pick up the slack (22 from Pek, 18 for AK, J.J. w/17, Ridnour finished w/15 and Dante added 12).
A matchup with the Western Conference's worst team (as well as the fourth-worst team in the NBA) the New Orleans Hornets.
The Hornets are bound for another trip to the Lottery this season, however as they continue to build around Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon (if he can ever stay healthy) and Austin Rivers this isn't a team that'll stay out of the Western Conference playoff picture for too long.
As of right now however, they're 5-16 this season, 3-9 at home, 2-8 in their last ten games and are currently riding a five-game losing streak. Despite being without Kevin Love for the first nine games of the season and having him struggle mightily shooting the ball since his return, the Wolves find themselves a game over .500 at 10-9, 4-6 on the road, 5-5 in their last ten games and winners of their last two outings, the TWolves will be looking to match their longest winning streak of the season, whilst sending the Hornets to a sixth consecutive loss.
The Hornets have been without their best player: Eric Gordon for the whole season. He continues to deal with knee problems that plagued him all last season (limiting him to just 9 games in 2011-12). As of right now, word is Gordon's "making progress" in his rehab, however a return date has yet to be set. New Orleans recently got Anthony Davis back in the lineup after he missed 11 games with an ankle injury. He's played in the Hornets' last two contests coming off the bench while Ryan Anderson and Robin Lopez start in the frontcourt. Head Coach Monty Williams says he'll continue to play Davis off the bench for the next few games while he gets some of his conditioning back.
The Timberwolves have had their own, well-documented struggles with injuries this season. However there does seem to be some light at the end of this seemingly never-ending tunnel. Ricky Rubio did not travel with the team, however barring any setbacks, he'll make his debut tomorrow night vs. the Dallas Mavericks back at the Target Center. Brandon Roy is rehabbing his knee and should start full contact practices next week, should be expecting a Christmas-New Years return. Chase Budinger remains out while he recovers from knee surgery following that torn meniscus, it will be a long while before we see him back in action though (sometime in March, most likely). Josh Howard sat out Wednesday's game vs. Denver with an illness and although he didn't participate in practice on Thursday, he did travel with the team to New Orleans and is expected to be available. And lastly, Malcolm Lee. Lee hyperextended his knee in Wednesday's game vs. Denver. He didn't participate in practice on Thursday and did not travel with the team, that means either J.J. Barea or Alexey Shved will get the start at shooting guard. If it's Shved, he'll be the fifth player to start at shooting guard for the Wolves this season (Roy, Budinger, Lee and Barea being the other four).
Minnesota's last game was that win over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night at the Target Center. The Wolves found themselves up by double digits late in the second half, however a big run from the Nuggets sparked by some dead-eye shooting found Denver within a single possession with under a minute to play. Luckily the Wolves finally hit their free throws (30-37) and slid out with the W. As I said, Love had a terrible shooting night 3-for-17 FG and only 8 points, however he got some big help from his supporting cast. Nikola Pekovic finished with 22pts, 11reb, 2ast, 2blks; Kirilenko continues his stellar all-around play as he chipped in 18pts, 4reb, 2ast, 4stls, 1blk and J.J. added 17pts, 5reb, 8ast, 2stls for the 108-105W.
The Hornets' last game also came on Wednesday night in a matchup with the powerhouse Oklahoma City Thunder. The Hornets were up 11 late in the third quarter, however we all know that no lead is safe with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant on the opposition. The Thunder orchestrated a 16-2 run that ultimately helped them secure the 92-88W. For New Orleans, Ryan Anderson had a solid all-around game, finishing with 14pts, 7reb, 5ast, 1stl, 1blk while rookie point guard Brian Roberts added 16pts, 1reb, 4ast, 2stls off the bench.
I'm excited to see Anthony Davis in action, this will be the first game I watch of him in the NBA. I did watch him play some in the Olympics, but obviously, we all know he didn't get much PT. I'm really hopeful that at some point Davis has to match up with Nikola Pekovic, I reckon that'll get interesting!
Let's take a look at the probable starting lineups...
I'm hoping Rick Adelman instead decides to start Alexey Shved (10.5ppg, 2.6rpg, 3.6apg) at shooting guard, however I'm going by who started the last time they were this thin at the two-guard. I could be completely wrong and Adelman could start Josh Howard at the two, too. Who knows.
The Hornets' top player right now is Ryan Anderson and it'll be interesting to see how two very similar big men (Love & Anderson) matchup against one another on the court. I'd usually pick Love to steamroll the competition in most any matchup, however the way he's been going lately, he's been unpredictable at best. Unpredictable is going for 36-13 vs. the Cavs on Friday and 8-14 vs. the Nuggets on Wednesday. Clearly one thing is for certain: those rebounding numbers are always going to be there!
That's all for now, tipoff for this one is set for 7pmCT from New Orleans Arena. Thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!