Game On: Hornets @ T’Wolves

Published: December 27, 2010

This might be one of the only times I am glad the Hornets are on the road. The New Orleans Saints play their biggest game of the season tonight, and with Minnesota as the opposing team for the Hornets, there is little doubt that plenty of seats would be open if the game were at home. With only a few games left before the attendance benchmark is either reached or not reached, we need every break that we can get to ensure the Hornets are in New Orleans for years to come.

As for the game itself, Minnesota is not exactly the pushover that they have been in years past. While it is true that they are only 7-24 overall and 2-17 on the road after their last second win at Cleveland last night, the fact is that Minnesota has been in a lot of their losses late in the game and they possess plenty of young talent, especially on the front line.

The Hornets, meanwhile, come into this game off of two straight wins and have won 4 of their last six. They also have been fantastic on the glass as of late, outrebounding their opponents by over 11 per game over the last seven games. That is going to be hard to do tonight, as Minnesota comes into this game as the number one rebounding team in the league. They average over 45 a game, and nearly 14 of them come on the offensive glass. Since Minnesota shoots under 44% from the field and turn the ball over more than 17 times per game, they need each and every possession in order to keep up with teams. I say “keep up” because that is exactly what Minnesota needs to do because they give up a league high 109.6 PPG.


Point Guard: Chris Paul vs. Luke Ridnour

Advantage: Hornets

Jonny Flynn is back and the Knicks (among other teams) are said to be interested in Ridnour, but for now he is holding down the starting point guard spot and doing a fairly good job doing it. He is shooting over 46% from the field and 45% from three-point land, not to mention the guy almost never misses a free throw. He possesses a 2.5 to 1 turnover to assist ratio which is below average for starting NBA point guards and his defense leaves a lot to be desired in man to man situations, although he isn’t horrible as a team defender.

Ridnour is 175 pounds soaking wet, so he tends to get lost on screens. The Hornets run more pick and rolls and/or pick and pops than almost anybody in the league, so expect this to be a huge advantage when Ridnour is on the court.

Shooting Guard: Marco Belinelli vs. Wesley Johnson

Advantage: Hornets

You know the drill with Marco by now- poor against good teams, good against poor teams. The T’Wolves are the worst defensive team in the league and Wesley Johnson is a rookie who is playing out of position. If Marco can’t get it going tonight, I don’t know when he will.

Wesley Johnson has shown flashes so far this season, but they have been few and far between. As I mentioned, he is playing out of position because Minnesota wants to be able to court all three of their building blocks in the starting lineup. Defensively, Johnson can stay with most two guards, but offensively he just lacks the consistency to make teams respect his outside stroke.

He only takes about 8 shots per game, and nearly half of them are from three, where he is shooting 37%. That is not Johnson’s game, though. He should be attacking the rim more and getting out in transition where he can use his athleticism, but unfortunately they have Ridnour manning the point, not Ricky Rubio, so he is stuck in a role that does not quite fit. And people wonder why Minnesota has all that talent and a 7-24 record.

Small Forward: Trevor Ariza vs. Michael Beasley

Advantage: T’Wolves

Michael Beasley cost the Timberwolves a 2nd round pick, Trevor Ariza cost the Hornets Darren Collison. Kinda stings, doesn’t it? To be fair, however, Beasley is putting up numbers for a bad team and it is likely his personality would have clashed with more professional veterans like CP3, West, and Okafor.

In Minnesota, Beasley is racking up numbers that will get him paid in his next contract but probably will never translate to wins. He leads the team in scoring at 21.6 PPG, but he doesn’t do much else. 6 rebounds, less than 2 assists, less than a block, and less than one steal per game, while turning the ball over nearly 3 times per game means that Beasley can only really hurt you one way.

Ariza should be able to use his length to bother Beasley’s outside shot, but I don’t know if he can lock him down in the post. On the offensive end, Ariza should use his quickness to get by Beasley, but the question is whether or not he will be able to finish at the rim. He also has had problems driving and kicking to open teammates this season, as most of those plays lead to turnovers. When Ariza puts the ball on the floor, you just cover your eyes and hope for the best. Expect a lot of that tonight.

Power Forward: David West vs. Kevin Love

Advantage: Hornets

I know Kevin Love is the hot new flavor of the month, and most would say this is even at best, but I disagree. I know Love is a beast on the boards and he might have more range on his shot than West, but David is by far the more efficient player and he just makes winning plays. Ask the Lakers, the Celtics, the Magic, the Heat, etc. which player they would want if they could want for the playoffs and they would all say West.

Love has gorgeous stats, but like Charles Barkley says, “Stats are like bikinis- they look nice, but they don’t tell the whole story.” Kevin’s stat line reads as follows: 20.8 PPG, 15.7 RPG, 45% from the field and 44% from three. Those are once in a generation type stats; 20 and 15 hasn’t been done in decades- yet this team has only won 7 games. If he was really that good of a player, this team wouldn’t be so horrible.

Center: Emeka Okafor vs. Darko Milicic

Advantage: Hornets

Two guys who were drafted No.2 overall in their respective drafts and have been much maligned because of it. It is neither guys fault that they were taken so high, and it is not Darko’s fault that Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Bosh were all taken after him and became superstars. It is not Emeka’s fault that the Bobcats panicked and game him a monster contract either.

These two guys are who they are and that means Darko is a legit 7 footer who can be a defensive presence in games that he doesn’t get into foul trouble and Emeka is a guy who will go out there every night and get you a double-double or something close to it.

Emeka has been playing wonderful as of late and this is another matchup that he could potentially dominate, although Milicic’s length could give Okafor trouble when he tries to post him up. The Hornets would be wise to use Emeka in the pick and roll game more tonight rather than just feeding him the ball in the post against Darko.

Bench: Jarrett Jack, Marcus Thornton, Quincy Pondexter, Jason Smith, DJ Mbenga vs. Jonny Flynn, Wayne Ellington, Corey Brewer, Martell Webster, Kosta Koufos

Advantage: Even

So much talent on that Minnesota bench, but it is so inconsistent and so poor defensively. Webster has just returned recently and is putting up over 14 PPG off the bench, while Brewer, Ellington, and Flynn have all had their struggles this year but can go off at any time if give a chance.For the Hornets, both Jack and Thornton have been much better as of late and Jason Smith tends to do well against teams that don’t read their scouting reports, and looking at their defensive metrics, it doesn’t look like they do read them that often.


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