This sure didn’t look like the Charlotte Hornets had much chance early.
They started out missing their first nine 2-point shots and allowed the Minnesota Timberwolves to have a bit of a dunk fest. But with a strong performance from the bench – particularly Jeremy Lamb (18 points) and Jeremy Lin (19) – the Hornets prevailed on the road 104-95 at the Target Center.
The Hornets played the fourth quarter without center Al Jefferson, going first with Spencer Hawes and then going small to protect a lead and keep strong foul-shooters on the court. Nic Batum finished with 17 points, making three of five 3-point attempts.
The Hornets forced the Timberwolves into 22 turnovers. Minnesota played without starters Ricky Rubio, Andrew Wiggins and Kevin Garnett.
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The Hornets have a home game Wednesday against the New York Knicks.
Three who mattered
Jeremy Lamb: After hitting six of his seven shots in the first half, Lamb looked like he’s worth the 3-year, $21 million contract extension he recently received.
Jeremy Lin: He drove hard to the rim to get to the foul line and drew two offensive fouls on defense.
Karl-Anthony Towns: The Minnesota Timberwolves rookie made some big-time moves in the fourth quarter.
▪ The Hornets had a two-day break from games while the Minnesota Timberwolves won in Atlanta on Monday night, building a big halftime lead, giving it all up, but then hanging on in the fourth quarter.
▪ Coach Steve Clifford was happy in the preseason how the second unit had come together and the numbers back that up: The bench averaged 40 points per game over the first six games with Jeremy Lamb (12 ppg.) and Jeremy Lin (11.7 ppg.) leading the way.
▪ Look for rookie Frank Kaminsky to play more in a month to six weeks than he is right now. “He was struggling with the physicality, but not with his game,” Clifford said. “He’s ready to play skill-wise…His role will expand.”
▪ Clifford said part of the challenge for Kaminsky has been the switch from college center to NBA power forward. That means he’s further out of the floor, guarding mobile players who can either pop out for a jump shot off setting a pick or roll to the basket. Covering a center entails less variety generally.
▪ This is the first set of games on back-to-back nights for the Hornets this season. Clifford says he appreciates that the league assigned the team seven fewer back-to-backs this season than last season.
▪ Timberwolves star Wiggins missed the game with a sore right knee. Kevin Martin started in his place.
▪ The Timberwolves also were without point guard Ricky Rubio (sore left knee). Zach LaVine started and former Duke point guard Tyus Jones got his first NBA action.
▪ The Hornets’ P.J. Hairston left the game in the first half feeling light-headedness. Lamb started in his place second half.
B+ OFFENSE: A very guard-oriented night. Jeremy Lamb and a couple of spectacular flashes, Nic Batum made some 3s and Jeremy Lin and Kemba Walker created off the dribble.
B DEFENSE: Things started off horrendously in the first quarter and the big men struggled some against Towns late.
B+ COACHING: Steve Clifford let up on them in practice and gave the team Sunday off to rest legs in a grueling stretch of the schedule.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell