Minnesota begins a 2-game road trip, beginning Friday vs. the Hornets, followed by a game vs. the Hawks on Saturday. The Wolves will be without J.J. Barea & Michael Beasley for both games as their dealing with injuries. J.J. has a sprained ankle he suffered in the loss to Chicago and Michael is recovering from that mid-foot sprain. J.J. will likely be back before Beas, however.
With two of their top players out, they'll be relying more and more on their bench. But, the question is, who will be on the bench for Friday's game? Rick Adelman was asked about a potential starting lineup change, but he wouldn't give any hints on his intentions for this game against Hornets, simply saying--it's something we'll definitely have to take a look at.
Clearly, the Wolves' current starting lineup of Ridnour, Ellington, Johnson, Love & Darko--just isn't working. Every game, they get off to a sluggish start--because, let's face it, Luke & Kevin can't carry the load for the first 8 minutes of the game, all by themselves! During the second half of that game vs. Chicago, Adelman started Rubio, Ridnour, Tolliver, Love & Randolph--and let's be honest, they looked VERY good. The problem with a lineup swap? Who's coming off the bench in that second unit that's going to maintain or build a lead?
My thought on a potential starting lineup swap? Start Rubio & Ridnour in the backcourt. Rubio can run the point, BUT can also guard the bigger shooting guards they'll face. Ridnour obviously benefits from playing with Ricky (scoring 22pts in that loss to CHI). At small forward? Start Anthony Tolliver. I was a bit unsure whether or not he could match up with the best small forwards in the League. Then, I remembered that game vs. Miami, when he matched up with LeBron and played some great D. Tolliver could be a defensive anchor, space the floor with his three-point shooting, rebound and his best attribute: his hustle! In the frontcourt? No change at power forward, Kevin Love is the starter at the 4 for Minnesota and will hopefully be Minnesota's 4 for years to come! Then, at center: Anthony Randolph. The way he plays with Ricky Rubio, you can't keep him off the court with him. He can score from 17-feet and in, he's athletic, and a lengthy defender. The only problem? He's not strong enough to defend some of the best centers in the League. In games when the Wolves face big men like Andrew Bynum, Dwight Howard, Andrew Bogut, Marc Gasol, etc., the Wolves could play Darko Milicic more (a true center).
Anyway, on to this Hornets game. The Hornets are coming off a 95-85 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Hornets were led, in that game, by Chris Kaman and Carl Landry who both had 17 points. In the loss to the Thunder, Eric Gordon did not play for "personal reasons" in his place Marco Belinelli got the start. The Hornets are also, currently, without two of their "swingmen". Starting small forward Trevor Ariza has missed the past five games with a strained groin and as of right now, there's no timetable for his return. The other is the Hornets newly acquired reserve: Xavier Henry. He was a part of that three team (PHI, NOH, MEM) deal that sent Marreese Speights to the Grizzlies and him to the Hornets, Henry is still a week away from the active roster as he's still recovering from torn ankle ligaments. You won't see either of these guys in Friday's game.
If the Hornets are also without Eric Gordon again (I have no idea), that will tip the scale in favor of Minnesota--quite a bit!
Let's take a look at the starting lineups for Friday's game. This is who I think SHOULD start for Minnesota and who will likely go for New Orleans...
Let's be honest, the lineup I've put up for Minnesota there (the same they used in the second half vs. Chicago) isn't likely the group who'll start. For New Orleans though, that's the same lineup they used vs. the Thunder. The only change would be if Eric Gordon is able to play, he'll replace Belinelli in the lineup.
If Minnesota comes out and plays like they did in the final three quarters of that game vs. Chicago they'll have no problem against the Hornets.
Some key matchups...Love vs. Okafor. Love is great on the offensive end, whereas Okafor is a beast on the defensive end. It'll be a fun matchup to watch. Joakim Noah did a good job of shutting down Love in the first half of the Bulls game. Okafor may be an even better defender, if he forces Love to beat him in the paint; it'll be a VERY LONG night for Kev.
That's all for now. Tipoff is set for Friday, 7pmCT, at New Orleans Arena. A full gameday recap can be found on this site following the final horn. That's all for now, thanks for reading and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!