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Time to Tear Up the Wolves Habitat – Like Lumberjacks!

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Published: January 23, 2009

Matchup: Hornets(26-13) @ Timberwolves(13-27)

Off Efficiency: Hornets 107.1(8th), Wolves 101.7(24th)
Def Efficiency: Hornets 103.3(12th), Wolves 107.0(26th)

The Wolves have ripped off their best chain of games this season over their past ten contests, going 7-3 over that span, including a five-game win streak.  I was fairly impressed, but when I looked closer at the schedule I realized it’s a bit of fool’s gold.  Their wins are over Golden State, Memphis(x2), Chicago, Oklahoma City, Milwaukee, the Clippers, and Phoenix.  Hardly murderers row, there.  However, I cannot dismiss them out of hand either – if you study their games even a little closer, they are playing better.  Since they settled Foye into their starting shooting guard role, this team has come alive – and over the last month, their losses haven’t been any worse than by seven points.  This team is dangerous, especially against a wounded animal . . . or insect.

The Hornets, of course, are missing a few legs, and would definitely qualify as wounded.  Unlike the Nets, who would struggle putting together a solid frontcourt rotation if they were handed Dwight Howard, the Timberwolves have a trio of bangers, including a skilled post player that will make you bleed down low: Al Jefferson.  This game will be a true test of character for the Hornets.

Injuries:

Hornets: West, Chandler and Armstrong are still questionable for the game.
Timberwolves: None

Positional Analysis:

PG: Sebastian Telfair v Chris Paul
Advantage: Hornets
If you can get past Telfair’s 34% shooting, 1.02 points per shot, 2 rebounds per game, and pretty poor assist to turnover ratio en route to 4 assists per game – you have a pretty good player – who can’t rebound, shoot, pass or . . who am I kidding?  Have fun with Paul, Telfair.

SG: Randy Foye v Rasual Butler
Advantage: Even
After years of being injured or played out of position at point guard, Foye is finally being used at his natural shooting guard spot.  His shooting percentages have climbed as a result, and in January he’s cranking it at 50% from the floor for twenty points per game.  He is becoming, essentially, Ben Gordon of the Bulls.  Rasual’s offense is as good, but I give him the edge on defense, evening this bracket.

SF: Ryan Gomes v Peja Stojakovic
Advantage: Hornets
Gomes is an excellent complimentary piece.  He hustles, defends, and can shoot surprisingly well.  However, he’s probably suited to more of a James Posey bench role, rather than being the third option for a first unit.  Peja, particularly with the way he’s been playing recently, should eat him alive.  One of our commenters pointed out a few posts ago that Peja has once more started playing with a perfectly clean-shaven face.  You should  go back and read this post from last year, and you’ll see this has happened before, and we had similar results.(and hopefully you’ll get a few laughs if you haven’t seen the post before)

PF: Craig Smith v Melvin Ely
Advantage: Timberwolves
Neither of these guys should start for an NBA team.  Craig Smith, however, at least deserves to be in a rotation.  Craig is known as the Rhino, and he’s a very short, very wide big man with some finishing skill around the basket and a propensity for rebounds and fouls.

C: Al Jefferson v Sean Marks.
Advantage: Timberwolves
A lot of people love Al Jefferson, but I’ve never been entirely sold on him.  To me, he’s Zach Randolph, if Zach had never been run out of town for being an annoying git.  Both players can score and rebound close to the basket, neither defend very well – though I will grant that Al at least tries on that end of the floor.  Al is also not the most efficient scorer around.  He can score – but barely five free throw attempts and 1.17 points per shot from your star scorer isn’t going to cut it.  That all said, if he ends up going against Sean Marks for most of the night, we’ll probably be treated to the second coming of David Robinson.

Bench
Advantage: Timberwolves
The Timberwolves have two players off the bench who are pretty solid: Mike Miller and Kevin Love.  Miller is having an off year, for some reason focusing on passing and rebounding instead of his best skill: shooting.  Still, he’ll have an impact – and put his shooting next to Kevin Love and that makes a nice one-two punch off the bench offensively.  Love started off the season struggling a bit, but recently he’s been coming on, rebounding extremely well and knocking down the 15 foot jumpshot with regularity.  If the Horntes play Julian, Posey, and Daniels together, I’m fine with our second unit.  If they ever add a rebounder, that’ll be a great unit.  When Armstrong rejoins it, it should be solid, though I dread the thought of Armstrong trying to catch those insane no-one-expecting-it-not-even-his-own-teammates passes that Julian likes to toss.

Enjoy the game.

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