Shorthanded Hornets aim to tame hot Timberwolves

Field Level Media

December 01, 2023 at 7:40 pm.

The key contributors tend to be evolving and rotating for the Charlotte Hornets.

As long as at least a player or two are able to come through, the Hornets figure to have a chance against the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday at Charlotte, N.C.

The Timberwolves will arrive on a roll with a three-game winning streak and victories in six of their last seven games. They’ve had a variety of players come to the forefront.

Minnesota had Anthony Edwards as its leading scorer for five straight games until Karl-Anthony Towns pumped in 32 points in Thursday night’s 101-90 victory against the visiting Utah Jazz. Edwards missed that game with a hip injury that’s not expected to have him out for long.

Towns is a capable go-to player.

“We needed a guy that we know we could go to to get a bucket,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said.

Minnesota’s Nickeil Alexander-Walker had 20 points in Thursday night’s game.

“It certainly feels comfortable,” Alexander-Walker said. “I just took open shots. My teammates did a great job finding me. Not really paying attention to how I was doing, just tried to focus on winning the game.”

The Hornets posted a 129-128 road victory Thursday night against the Brooklyn Nets when Terry Rozier, who had been out until recently with a groin injury, poured in a season-high 37 points.

“Just effort, intensity,” Rozier said. “Coach (Steve Clifford) said that even with all our guys out, if we make the effort winning plays, that we’d win this game. It’s something we have to stick by with all these guys being hurt.”

The Hornets were without the injured LaMelo Ball and Brandon Miller, both out with ankle injuries. But Rozier is versatile enough to handle some of the duties that usually have belonged to Ball.

“I am a point guard, so I just tried to be comfortable with the guys and do what I can for us to win,” Rozier said.

Rozier, who made seven 3-point baskets at Brooklyn, has scored 22, 11 and 37 points in three games since a three-week absence.

Bryce McGowens has moved into Charlotte’s starting lineup in Miller’s place.

“The most important thing was we fought hard and made the plays at the end of the game,” Clifford said.

Charlotte is amid its best stretch of the season with three wins in its last five games. It took a season-high point total to beat the Nets.

While the Hornets are coming off a positive result, it took a season-high 21 baskets from 3-point range to get that job done.

“This was not a recipe for how we’re going to win NBA games,” Clifford said. “We’re not going to make 21 3s every night. We were minus-11 on the glass, and if you give up that many fast-break points (20), you’re not going to win many games.”

Minnesota will be aiming for its third consecutive road victory. Defense can be the key to more of that success.

“The more we can use our defense, which is helping create good offense for us,” Alexander-Walker said.