MINNEAPOLIS – This one might come as something of a shock: Since 2006-07, the New Orleans Hornets have the third-best record of any opposing team at the Target Center, 8-2. That’s worse than just the Lakers (11-1) and Mavericks (10-2), and it’s especially interesting considering that the Hornets have had just three winning seasons over that time.
The last time New Orleans visited the Target Center was March 10, 2012, the night after Ricky Rubio tore his ACL in a Timberwolves loss to the Lakers. There’s a bit of déjà vu to this weekend series – it’s another home Friday-Saturday Lakers-Hornets back-to-back – but Rubio made it through the Lakers game unscathed this time around.
The Hornets have an 8-7 record in their last 15 games; the Timberwolves are 3-12. Minnesota has traveled to New Orleans twice this season already, winning handily, 113-102, the first time and then blowing a lead to lose the second, 104-92.
In keeping with their success at the Target Center, the Hornets have also had their fair share of recent road success. Since Christmas they’re 6-6 on the road and shooting 45.7 percent in such games, markedly better than the 43.2 percent they’re shooting on the season.
Shooting struggles: Writing about this is like beating a dead horse, but here’s a particularly damning stat: The Timberwolves have shot less than 49 percent from the field in their past 16 games, since Jan. 2. That’s the longest active streak in the NBA by quite a measure; the Kings are next, with 10 consecutive sub-49 percent shooting nights.
Interior concerns: When the Timberwolves won in New Orleans on Dec. 14, they had a whopping 70 points in the paint. In their loss Jan. 11, they had just 40, and when asked about that before Saturday’s game, Hornets coach Monty Williams offered nothing more than a buzzer sound and “not going to happen.” Whatever adjustment he made wasn’t by accident, and New Orleans is counting on it again this time around.
Free throw issues: The Timberwolves are better than just six teams in free throw shooting this season; their 72.9 percent mark going into Saturday is No. 24 in the league. It can be frustrating, especially after so many games in which a few made free throws would have made the difference. That was the story again on Friday, when the team went a staggeringly bad 8 of 18 from the free throw line, and Rick Adelman didn’t have much to say Sunday in the way of possible ways to correct for the struggles.
“I love it when people talk about, you know, you have to practice your free throws,” he said. “I mean in this league, it is what it is, unless we bring 15,000 people in here to yell at them.”
No Eric Gordon: The Hornets guard still has not been cleared to play in back-to-backs after returning from the knee injury that sidelined him until late December. That means he’ll sit Saturday in Minneapolis, although Adelman wasn’t ready to enjoy or comment on his good fortune.
“I still think he’s going to play,” he said, only half-joking. “I just, I’m very pessimistic at this point. I think he’s going to play. He’ll probably play 40 minutes.”