Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports
A battle of two undefeated heavyweights.
Wolves at Hornets
Just when you thought the high of an opening night classic was never going to wear off, you remember this is the NBA. That means the games come thick and fast and there is never time to appreciate a meager regular season win too much. Therefore, all attention is gone from Minnesota’s overtime victory over the Brooklyn Nets and straight onto the Charlotte Hornets.
The Wolves will be looking to back up Wednesday night’s brilliance with another road game in North Carolina. The Hornets have been widely projected as one of the worst teams in the league and this projects to be a much easier battle than Kyrie Irving and his Nets. But in the NBA, and especially the Wolves, there are no guarantees.
Minnesota were paced by reinvigorated Karl-Anthony Towns in Brooklyn, with a bunch of his supporting cast playing key parts in the victory. With a run-and-gun mentality and a yearning to launch 3-pointers, Ryan Saunders’ new system looked like a winner. It will be interesting to see if they can continue to succeed with that scheme, especially the outside-in presence of Towns, whom the Hornets have no ideal matchup for.
However, the spirits are just as high in the Charlotte camp. They are coming off an impressive one-point win themselves, outgunning the young and talented Chicago Bulls. They won’t lie down in this one. Despite having the better team, Minnesota must ensure they don’t play down to their opposition and continue to play with a hunger and a desire.
Terry Rozier, who signed a hefty 3-year, $58 million deal after a disappointing final season in Boston, will be looking to bounce back after scoring just seven points (2-10 FG) with six assists and four turnovers. He will undoubtedly be the main man for the Hornets this season, so even coming off a poor game he will need to be contained. Minnesota’s guards — outside of Josh Okogie — couldn’t handle Irving and his point guard prettiness on Wednesday night, so they will need to do a better job in this one.
Rozier might have been substandard, as was last year’s 12th overall pick Miles Bridges, but there were some genuinely positive performances from various Hornets in the season opener. Rookie PJ Washington (27 points and seven 3-point makes), Dwayne Bacon (22 points) and Devonte’ Graham (23 points and eight assists) were all brilliant and will be heading into this tilt beaming with confidence. The one downer on the night was Nic Batum, a noted Timberwolves killer in recent years, who broke his finger and will miss three to four weeks of action.
Just like Ryan Saunders and the rest of the Timberwolves brass, Charlotte head coach James Borrego has preached an increased pace all offseason. While the frantic play from both squads may make for some sloppy turnovers, it is sure to add an element of excitement to the game.
It will be intriguing to see how the wing rotation plays out for the Wolves in this one — as it will be all season long. Treveon Graham started against Brooklyn and put in a great shift, while Jake Layman’s 22 minutes were the most off the bench. Although, with Okogie’s awesome game and Jarrett Culver craving development minutes, don’t be surprised to see them on the floor more often than game one.
A fun one is in store for us. One that Minnesota should be expected to win. As we know, though, it’s never that straightforward.
Our friends from At The Hive will have all the Hornets coverage you need. Enjoy the game. Go Wolves.