The Minnesota Timberwolves have played themselves out of the playoffs, the consistent barrage of injuries to key players didn't help either. To be fair, Minnesota isn't out of playoff contention, quite yet, however I counted them out about a week ago.
They're currently 5 games behind Denver/Houston who're tied for the 7th seed. They're 12th in the Western Conference and 5th in the Northwest Division.
A game against the Hornets may be the antidote. I said the same thing about the Blazers, Kings & Warriors (the Wolves' past three games--all losses, so who knows?!
The Minnesota Timberwolves are 25-31 on the year, 12-17 on the road, 3-7 in their last 10 games and currently riding a four-game losing streak. The New Orleans Hornets are 15th in the Western Conference, with the third-worst record in the NBA (behind Charlotte & Washington). They're currently 14-40 on the year, 6-21 at home and 4-6 in their previous ten games. The TWolves are also 19-21 in conference play, while the Hornets are 8-29.
The Hornets' last game came against the Denver Nuggets, in which they grabbed their 6th home win of the season with a narrow 94-92 victory. All five starters scored in double-digits for the Hornets: Vasquez (11pts, 5reb, 10ast), Gordon (15pts), Ariza (15pts), Smith (10pts), Kaman (14pts, 10reb, 5blks) and Landry came off the bench to score 12pts. The Hornets will play tonight (4/6) vs. the San Antonio Spurs. We'll have an update on that one tomorrow.
It's sounding as though Michael Beasley may make his return to the rotation tomorrow night. He's been out with that sprained toe he suffered back in mid-March. Nikola Pekovic & J.J. Barea are expected to play, too, and likely start, however Luke Ridnour remains out with the sprained ankle and Darko Milicic is also out with a 'supposed' hamstring injury.
For the Hornets, they could be without their starting point guard Jarrett Jack, he missed the game vs. Denver with a sore right ankle (we'll see if he plays tonight vs. the Spurs). Backup center Chris Johnson also missed the game vs. Denver with a concussion (he's listed as questionable). And lastly, Emeka Okafor has been out for extended time because of a sore left knee. He had an MRI done earlier this week that came back negative. Reports say it's doubtful he plays again this season.
Let's get a look at the probable starting lineups for each team...
J.J. Barea vs. Greivis Vasquez (8.3ppg, 5.1apg, 0.9spg)
Martell Webster vs. Eric Gordon (19.0ppg, 4.7rpg, 1.7spg)
Wesley Johnson vs. Trevor Ariza (11.1ppg, 5.5rpg, 1.6spg)
Kevin Love vs. Jason Smith (9.4ppg, 4.6rpg, 1.1bpg)
Nikola Pekovic vs. Chris Kaman (13.2ppg, 8.1rpg, 1.5bpg)
If Jarret Jack (15.6ppg, 3.9rpg, 6.3apg) is available it's likely he'll get the start at point guard. If Jason Smith does start at power forward, Kevin Love will clearly have a big advantage, I'd look for him to take advantage of that early and hopefully often. Martell Webster scored 0pts on 0-for-5 shooting in the Wolves' last game (a loss to the Warriors), I'd expect him to look to get back on track in this one. Eric Gordon played just his 3rd game of the season in the win over the Nuggets because of a knee injury, he's definitely a big boost to that struggling team. He was the key piece in that Chris Paul trade. If he plays the remaining games of the season he'll have played just 15 games this year and could potentially leave via free agency this summer!
The Hornets currently have the 2nd-worst offensive team in the NBA--averaging 89.0ppg. They're also the 7th-worst rebounding team in the NBA--averaging 41.1rpg. However, surprisingly, they're the 8th-best defensive team in the NBA--allowing an average of 93.6ppg for opponents this season.
The key to this one? Defense. I don't care if we don't win, that won't get me that upset. However, if we lose because we played awful defense (like the Wolves have since losing Ricky Rubio), I am just going to lose it! A strong defensive effort is all I care about tonight.
Just a quick note: I may not have the gameday recap following the game as per usual. It may not be until Sunday or Monday sometime, because I've got a very busy weekend. Sorry in advance, hope you enjoy the game!
That's all for now, tipoff is set for Saturday, April 7th from New Orleans Arena, 7pmCT. Thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!