Preview: Charlotte Bobcats (3-3) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (5-2)

Wednesday night at Target Center the Wolves host the Bobcats, winners of two straight(!) and on the second night of a back-to-back.

Bobcats probable starting lineup:

PG Kemba Walker

SG Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

SF Jeffery Taylor

PF Byron Mullens

C Brendan Haywood

Whereas the best hope for Charlotte a year ago was to pray Walker was hitting his jump shot, life in the Leastern Conference means you get the reprieve of facing the Washington Wizards now and then. That, and the fact Kidd-Gilchrist looks like a real building block, has the Bobs in a much better place than last year.

Though their young core of Walker, Kidd-Gilchrist and Mullens lead them in minutes played, bringing Ramon Sessions, Ben Gordon and Gerald Henderson off the bench gives them a balanced attack. All six players are averaging double figures in scoring for the season.

Wolves probable starting lineup:

PG Luke Ridnour

SG Malcolm Lee

SF Andrei Kirilenko

PF Derrick Williams

C Nikola Pekovic Greg Stiemsma

Pek, Brandon Roy and JJ Barea are all listed as day-to-day, and are thus probable scratched for tonight’s game. The injury woes of the Wolves are many, so any good news is welcome this is just more of the same. If Pek is able to give it a go, he may Greg Stiemsma and Lou Amundson will be met with some resistance down low by Brendan Haywood and Bismack Biyombo.

Against Dallas, Adelman opted for Lee’s defense over Alexey Shved’s playmaking in naming a fill-in for the injured Chase Budinger (who was a fill-in for the injured Roy). Whether this choice was to show the priorities for his team or simply a choice bereft of options, it paid dividends as Lee held OJ Mayo to 18 points on 18 shots Monday night in Dallas.

Possibly also showing Adelman’s priorities, Williams was benched to start the second half in favor of Dante Cunningham as the trials of D-Won’t continued against the Mavs. After a great spin and dunk on Brandon Wright, he followed it up by attempting to lead a fast break, resulting in the usual sequence of a turnover, bad shot, etc. It has been the same old story, and Adelman has been quick to pull the reigns. Against a stretch-4 like Mullens, Williams will face a different kind of challenge than the usual banging down low against the likes of David West or Carlos Boozer. If he fails to extend his defense out to the 3-point line or box out on long rebounds, Cunningham looms.

After allowing another point guard a season-high outburst (Darren Collison, 21 points), Ridnour has his hands full again with Charlotte’s leader in scoring and assists, Walker. Needless to say, if Barea is able to give it a go, he could be big help Will Conroy will get his shot.

Kidd-Gilchrist and Kirilenko will be the do-everything matchup of the night. (The D-Won’t haters will surely be dreaming of what the Bobcats rookie would look like in a Wolves uniform in his stead.) AK47 has been on a campaign for (ridiculously) early All-Star consideration (even dark horse MVP talk), anchoring the Wolves defense and being anything they need on offense — generally being everywhere this season. Tonight should be no different.

Expect a smackdown, beware of a letdown.

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Tags: Alexey Shved Andrei Kirilenko Ben Gordon Brendan Haywood Byron Mullens Charlotte Bobcats Dante Cunningham Derrick Williams Kemba Walker Luke Ridnour Malcolm Lee Michael Kidd-gilchrist Minnesota Timberwolves Nikola Pekovic

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