Injuries have ravaged their frontcourt, but the New Orleans Hornets haven’t seemed to miss a beat.
With rookie reserves playing key fill-in roles, the Hornets try for their third straight victory when they visit the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday.
While Chandler hopes to play Saturday, West, averaging 17.4 points and 8.3 rebounds, is questionable for the contest. If he can’t play, rookies Hilton Armstrong and Brandon Bass showed they can fill his role if needed.
Armstrong scored 17 points—including the game-winning free-throw with 3 seconds left—and added nine rebounds to help the Hornets beat Detroit 100-99 on Wednesday night.
It was the first NBA start for Armstrong, who had previously played only six minutes in two games this season and hadn’t attempted a shot.
Bass, who’s made two starts, had 12 points and seven rebounds against the Pistons to help make up for the losses of West and Chandler.
“I told them before the game that they were getting an opportunity, and it was up to them to take advantage of it,” said New Orleans coach Byron Scott. “I didn’t expect 17 points from Hilton, and I don’t think he thought about scoring like that, either. That’s probably why he was able to do it.”
After starting 4-0, New Orleans lost all three games on a West Coast trip before bouncing back. Peja Stojakovic had a career-high 42 points in a 94-85 win over Charlotte on Tuesday, while point guard Chris Paul had 20 points and 13 assists against the Pistons.
“We played hard and our guys really stepped up,” Stojakovic said. “We played levelheaded after a tough game last night at home and then coming here to Detroit tonight and winning this game was a big test.”
The Hornets have lost 11 of their last 14 meetings with the Timberwolves. They had dropped six straight in Minnesota before beating the Timberwolves 100-94 on Feb. 11, the last matchup between the teams.
Unlike the Hornets, Minnesota (3-5) is struggling after starting the season 2-0. The Timberwolves lost 92-76 to Cleveland on Friday night, their fifth loss in the last six games.
Minnesota shot only 38 percent from the field and finished with 31 points in the second half en route to its lowest point total of the season.
“Our offense in the second half disappeared,” coach Dwayne Casey said. “Thirty-one points? You can’t expect to beat teams on the road like that.”
“I rushed a lot of shots,” said Garnett, who had 11 rebounds and five steals. “In the fourth they made their run and we never answered it. It was one of those nights, but that’s the beauty of this league, there’s tomorrow.”
This is the third back-to-back of the season for Minnesota. It lost the second game on both previous occasions.
The Timberwolves and Hornets play again next Friday in Oklahoma City.