The Minnesota Timberwolves continue to struggle as they play on with just nine healthy players, but they're hoping a meeting with the New Orleans Hornets will give them a little boost.
The Wolves have met New Orleans three times this season and gone 2-1 in those matchups. This will be the fourth and final meeting of the season.
The first meeting came on Dec. 14th in New Orleans. The Wolves won that one 113-102 as Nikola Pekovic erupted for 31pts, 5reb, 1ast, 1stl. Kirilenko added 21pts, 11reb, 2ast, 1stl, 1blk. Austin Rivers had 27pts & 3ast for the Hornets, while Ryan Anderson added 20pts, 7reb, 1ast, 2stls.
The second matchup came on Jan. 11th in New Orleans. The Wolves lost that one 92-104. Pekovic had 18pts, 6reb, 2ast, 2blks & Kirilenko had 17pts, 5reb, 2ast, 2stls and 1blk. Greivis Vasquez had 18pts, 4reb, 13ast & Eric Gordon finished with 16pts, 1reb & 3ast.
Their most recent matchup came on February 2nd at the Target Center. The Wolves won that one 115-86. Dante Cunningham was the star of that game as he finished with 18pts, 4reb, 1ast & 2stls and set a new franchise-record with the most field goals made in a game without a miss (9-9 FG). Pek added 14pts, 7reb, 1stl & 1blk. The Hornets were led by their big men: Anthony Davis had 18pts, 4reb, 1ast, 2stls & 1blk and Robin Lopez had 16pts, 2reb & 1stl.
In all three of these games, Nikola Pekovic & Andrei Kirilenko were a big part of their success. Unfortunately their status for tonight's game is questionable. They've both missed a big chunk of games and the Wolves have not faired well without them. We'll have an update on those two prior to tonight's tip, both in this post and on our Injury Report. Chase Budinger has been cleared by doctors, but has yet to participate in a practice, simply because the Wolves haven't held any. For all I know, he could play tonight or not for another week or more...I have no idea. Kevin Love, Brandon Roy & Malcolm Lee will also sit this one out for the Wolves.
The Hornets have had some injury struggles of their own. Rookie Austin Rivers & big man Jason Smith are both done for the season. Rivers broke his hand and Smith underwent season-ending shoulder surgery.
Because of the injury to Smith and the lack of depth in the frontcourt, the Hornets recently signed Lou Amundson. Lou was waived in late-February by the Wolves so they could sign Mickael Gelabale & Chris Johnson to rest of the season deals. With Smith out, Amundson is currently the second string center.
The Wolves season is winding down and as it has so many seasons before, it will come to a merciless end. The Wolves have gone 6-26 since Jan. 9th and they may be lucky to get that W total to 10 before the end of the year.
The Hornets lost their lone trip to the Target Center this season, but before that they had won 9 of their last 11 matchups in Minneapolis. That goes back to the days of Chris Paul, Tyson Chandler & David West. This is a very different Hornet squad, a team in a rebuild mode with some very young, raw & intriguing prospects: Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon & Ryan Anderson.
Eric Gordon didn't play in the most recent matchup, but is expected to play and start at shooting guard tonight. This will be his first visit to Target Center since November 17, 2010 when he was still with the Los Angeles Clippers. Despite 30pts from Gordon, the Wolves went on to win that one.
Let's take a look at tonight's probable starting lineups...
As of right now, I'm assuming that Andrei Kirilenko (13.1P, 6R, 2.9A, 1.6S, 1.1B) & Nikola Pekovic (15.9P, 8.8R, 0.9B) won't be playing. Without them, it'll be an uphill battle and with them, it makes this a very winnable game. The big concern, as always will be the matchup at shooting guard. Eric Gordon is the kind of big, scoring off-guards that the Wolves have struggled with all season long. Luke Ridnour is a good player, but it's just plain unfair to ask him to guard all these bigger, more physical and talented scoring guards.
This one will tipoff at 6pmCT from the Target Center, enjoy the game, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!