• Coming off a home win versus the Dallas Mavericks, the Wolves look to sweep the short two game, two day homestand. Standing in their way will be the Hornets who are fresh off a loss in San Antonio.

    The Wolves were able to handle the Mavs fairly easily on Saturday night, but thanks to some lackadaisical play in the fourth quarter which brought the Mavs briefly within striking distance, Thibs decided to keep running with his starters.

    That run prevented the bench from closing things out, which means the starters won’t be as fresh as expected heading into the second night of a back-to-back.

    Karl-Anthony Towns will look to build off his 31-point in 32 minute performance, but he will face tougher competition with Dwight Howard. Though not quite the imposing defensive force he once was, Howard has looked more like his former self in this early season, averaging 14.8 points, 14.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks.

    The Hornets have been a significantly better team while Howard is on the floor, compared to when he’s off, with a 12.4 net positive rating for the team, 14th among players with 20 minutes or more per game.

    Kemba Walker is still the engine that drives the Hornets though. Averaging 23.3 points with a 63.1 true shooting percentage, Kemba has had an excellent start to the season. The small point guard plays a big game, not afraid to take big shots and make them. He’s the focal point.

    Nicolas Batum has been out to start the season, so Jeremy Lamb has stepped in to the lineup and delivered some great performances. In his last game he scored 27 points with nine rebounds, six assists, two steals and three 3-pointers on 10-of-15 shooting against the San Antonio Spurs.

    Years ago, Lamb was one of the key pieces in the James Harden trade from the Thunder. Things never really panned out for him in OKC and was eventually dumped onto the Hornets were he began to receive more opportunity and shine. This season, he has more than doubled his minutes and he’s showing why he was once a coveted player.

    Former second overall pick Michael Kidd-Glichrist will miss this game, which will be a big loss for the Hornets. He is a talented defender and would have been tasked with defending Wiggins and potentially Butler at times. His absence will open the floor for Dwayne Bacon, a second round rookie, coming off an 18-point game versus the Spurs.

    Overall, the Hornets are a deep, talented team. They typically play inside the arc and will pick and roll teams to death with Dwight and Kemba. They do have an ability to hit threes at a high clip if teams let them, with Marvin Williams, Malik Monk, Frank Kaminsky, Walker, Bacon and Lamb all capable shooters.

    Key Matchups:

    Jeff Teague vs. Kemba Walker

    Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Dwight Howard

    These two teams matchup pretty well on paper. The key for the Wolves will come down to a couple of factors.

    First, Teague will have to try his best to slow down Walker and chase him around the court. The Wolves won’t need his best offensive game to beat the Hornest, but they need his best defensive effort.

    There might be times Butler takes on Walker, especially if the game is decided late in the fourth quarter. The majority of the task will be up to Teague though. He’s going to have to fight through screens and remain in Walker’s pocket as much as possible.

    For Towns, he will have to keep Dwight off the glass as best he can. After some sloppy defensive rebounding early in the season, it seems like Towns has cleaned up that flaw in his game, and he’s mostly kept opposing centers off the offensive put backs.

    Howard is averaging 4.2 offensive rebounds per game so far this season, so Towns will have his work cut out. He needs to get physical with Dwight, and not be afraid of the whistle. Even if Towns pick up fouls, Dwight is a poor free throw shooter, so sending him to the free throw line isn’t always a bad thing (40.2 percent this year on near 10 attempts per game).

    Lineups:

    Teague

    Butler

    Wiggins

    Gibson

    Towns

    vs.

    Walker

    Lamb

    Bacon

    Williams

    Howard

    Injuries:

    Justin Patton (foot) – OUT

    Nicolas Batum (elbow) – OUT

    Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (personal) – OUT

    Julyan Stone (hamstring) – OUT

    Where to Watch:

    8:00 ET/7:00 CT on Fox Sports North

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