Timberwolves-Hornets Preview

The New Orleans Hornets are stumbling toward the finish line,

but their late-season woes have been mild compared with the

Minnesota Timberwolves’ disastrous second half.

The Timberwolves have dropped 10 consecutive road games and 26

of 28 overall going into Sunday night’s matchup at New Orleans,

where the Hornets can complete a season-series sweep in their home

finale.

After reaching the playoffs the last two seasons, New Orleans

(35-45) won’t extend the streak after struggling through a

disappointing campaign that saw star point guard Chris Paul limited

to 45 games due to injuries.

The Hornets have dropped 17 of 21, and their five-game losing

streak is their longest since a six-game skid from March 2-13,

2007.

They’ve lost five of their last six home games following Friday

night’s 114-103 defeat to Utah, but they figure to have a good

chance of finishing their home slate on a high note against the

lowly Timberwolves.

“It’s natural to want to win the last one at home, but we still

have to go out there and play,” forward David West said. “We’ll

come out Sunday and try to find a way.”

That may require another big night from rookie Darren Collison,

the point guard who is filling in for Paul. Collison had 28 points

and seven assists against the Jazz and is averaging 18.7 points and

8.5 assists while shooting better than 50 percent from the field

since the All-Star break.

Collison’s former teammate at UCLA, forward Kevin Love, has been

one of the few bright spots lately for Minnesota, racking up five

double-doubles in his last six games and averaging 14.8 rebounds in

that stretch.

It hasn’t led to much success for the Timberwolves, whose only

win in their last 21 games was 108-99 over Sacramento on March

31.

Despite a 97-88 loss to the Kobe Bryant-less Los Angeles Lakers

on Friday night, coach Kurt Rambis was pleased with his team after

halftime, when the Timberwolves nearly erased an 18-point

deficit.

“The team that played in the second half, that’s the team I want

to see all the time,” Rambis said.

Minnesota (15-64) needs one win in its final three games to

avoid matching the worst record in franchise history, set in

1991-92, but the Wolves have not had an easy time finding victories

against New Orleans.

The Hornets have won five straight overall and four in a row at

home against Minnesota, which is averaging 93.0 points in three

losses this season.

Center Al Jefferson, a native of nearby southern Mississippi who

leads the Timberwolves with 17.4 points per game, will be available

after missing the last two games while tending to a hospitalized

family member.