Charlotte Hornets

With a new, younger rotation, the Charlotte Hornets top Minnesota Timberwolves

Charlotte Hornets’ Cody Zeller on knee injury

Charlotte Hornets Center Cody Zeller discusses his sore and swollen left knee.
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Charlotte Hornets Center Cody Zeller discusses his sore and swollen left knee.

Apparently acknowledging the playoffs are a remote possibility, Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego went with the kids Thursday, but it ended up in a victory.

The Hornets beat the Minnesota Timberwolves at home 113-106, breaking a two-game losing streak. Borrego’s revised rotation included starting second-year pro Dwayne Bacon ahead of Nic Batum and heavy minutes for youngsters Malik Monk, Devonte Graham and Willy Hernangomez.

Borrego gave no indication before the game of a shakeup in the rotation. Batum had started every previous game he was available for this season.

All-Star point guard Kemba Walker led the Hornets with 31 points and rookie Miles Bridges added 11 points and 12 rebounds. The Hornets (32-39) took a severe blow to their playoff chances in a Sunday road loss to the Miami Heat, then lost at home Tuesday to the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Timberwolves fell to 32-40. Center Karl-Anthony Towns finished with 21 points and 16 rebounds, while Andrew Wiggins added 20 points.

Three who mattered

Walker: His 51st game this season reaching 20 points.

Bridges: His first career double-double (points and rebounds) came on his 21st birthday.

Wiggins: He attacked the rim from tipoff, beating various Hornets off the dribble.


This was the eighth career start for Bacon, who has spent much of his second pro season with the G-League’s Greensboro Swarm. Bacon actually started the first NBA game he ever played, the season opener last season in Detroit, due to an injury to Batum. Thursday, Bacon shot 1-of-8 from the field for four points, but had five assists and five rebounds.

The Hornets were without center Cody Zeller (ongoing pain and swelling in his left knee) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (concussion). This was Zeller’s fifth consecutive game missed with that injury. Kidd-Gilchrist would have to be cleared undre the NBA’s concussion protocol before playing again.

This is Kidd-Gilchrist’s third concussion since he was drafted into the NBA in 2012. He suffered one previously this preseason in September, recovering in time for the season opener. His concussion prior to that was his rookie season.

Worth mentioning

Thursday was the first playing time for Hernangomez in four games. Monk, the Hornets’ lottery pick two years ago, had played in only three of the past nine games.

The only two Hornets on the active roster not to play were veteran point guards Tony Parker and Shelvin Mack.

Tipoff time for Saturday’s home game against the Boston Celtics is earlier than usual at 6 p.m..

They said it

“It’s kind of the balance of ‘What I can I play through?’ I can play through some of the swelling, but at the same time am I hurting the team being out there? What am I hurting (with) my long-term career?” – Zeller on Wednesday on his knee injury.

“I think one of the key words we used to day is opportunity...It’s time for other guys to step up and star in their roles .” – Timberwolves interim coach Ryan Saunders on injuries shutting down Jeff Teague, Derrick Rose and Robert Covington the rest of the season.

Report card

C OFFENSE:. They topped 50 points in the paint, but their 3-point shooting wasn’t good. (Walker missed seven of his first eight attempts).

B DEFENSE: Not much to be gleaned from this kind of game, but they improved the rebounding compared to the prior game against the Timberwolves.

B COACHING: It’s the right call to accept the playoffs are essentially out of reach and play the young guys the rest of the season.

Rick Bonnell is a sportswriter/columnist for the Charlotte Observer. He has been in Charlotte since 1988, when the NBA arrived, and has covered the Hornets continuously. A former president of the Pro Basketball Writers Association, Bonnell also writes occasionally on the NFL and college sports.
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