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Game #66: Minnesota Timberwolves at Charlotte Bobcats preview

Who: Minnesota Timberwolves vs Charlotte Bobcats

What: NBA Basketball – Bobcats Home Game

When: 7:00 PM ET

Where: Live at Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, N.C.

— The Timberwolves are a team that should be better than they are. They’re in the top ten in both offensive and defensive rating, but are just barely treading water in the Western Conference at 32-31. Their offense does some things at an elite level, especially protecting the ball and offensive rebounding, but their poor three-point shooting (and shooting in general) has  hurt them. Defensively, they force a lot of turnovers and avoid fouling, but aren’t particularly good at keeping the ball out of the basket: opponents average 47 percent from the floor against them, the second-worst mark in the league. If the Bobcats can protect the ball and rebound well, they’ll have a good shot in this one.

— Sixth man Gary Neal will return to the court tonight, after sitting out Wednesday’s game due to an “internal team matter.” More options are always welcome, and it’s a good sign to see the team handle issues like this professionally. But Neal might have seen his minutes drop anyway, as Chris Douglas-Roberts has been on a tear recently. In four starts while Gerald Henderson was injured, CDR averaged 12.5 points on 45 percent shooting and 53 percent on three-pointers. He continued that hot play from the bench on Wednesday, adding 10 points in 21 minutes. I’d expect to see Douglas-Roberts get the bulk of the backup time at shooting guard as long as he’s playing this well.

— The Bobcats will be defending their seven-game home winning streak, while the Timberwolves have struggled on the road at 14-18. Minnesota should be well-rested, though, with their last game coming on Tuesday against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Prediction: I like the way Charlotte’s been playing recently, but not this matchup. Kevin Love’s range will  pull the Bobcats big men away from the basket, and Al Jefferson got beat up inside by Nikola Pekovic in the teams’ last matchup. This should be a closer game than that 119-92 piledriving, but I think Charlotte still drops this one 98-90.