Scouting Report: Wolves at Hawks
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Wolves (17-20) at Hawks (22-18) — 1:00 PM Philips Arena
Where to Watch: No TV
Where to Listen: 830 WCCO-AM
View Timberwolves Game Notes
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Minnesota broke its five-game losing streak with a 92-79 win over the Houston Rockets on Saturday night, but the challenges keep coming as the Wolves travel south to face the Hawks during their one-game road trip this afternoon. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. on 830 WCCO-AM radio. Today’s game will not be televised locally but will be available on NBA League Pass.
The Wolves held the Rockets to a season-low 79 points on just under 33 percent shooting, flashing their defensive aptitude that they developed during the beginning of this year. Andrei Kirilenko was steady for Minnesota, logging 21 points and 11 rebounds. Luke Ridnour scored 16 points of his own, but the stars of the show were Michael Gelable and Chris Johnson—two fresh additions to the roster as of Saturday morning—who combined to score the first 23 points in the fourth quarter and seal the win.
While the Wolves undoubtedly have experienced an unusual amount of injuries this season, the Hawks haven’t had great luck, either. Anthony Morrow has been out since late December, Devin Harris has struggled with injuries all year, and prized sixth man Lou Williams is out for the remainder of the season. Williams led Atlanta in scoring per 36 minutes with 17.7 points. Atlanta’s record looks solid from a quick glance—sitting sixth in the Eastern Conference—but they have taken a serious dip in the last ten games, only winning two in that span.
The healthy players that will suit up today still make up a daunting unit. Frontcourt players Josh Smith (16.5 PPG, 8.3 RPG) and Al Horford (15.3 PPG, 9.8 RPG) have been solid all year, leading Atlanta statistically and missing only a few contests. Point guard Jeff Teague continues his career year with 13.4 PPG and 6.6 APG, and the starting lineup will likely be rounded out with Kyle Korver (.448 3FG%) and Zaza Pachulia (6.9 RPG).
Last Time Out: January 8, 2013
Clicking on all cylinders, the Wolves grabbed the lead early and never let go on their way to a 108-103 Target Center win over the Hawks on Jan. 8. Minnesota got rolling with a strong first quarter, getting 10 points from Nikola Pekovic and two shots from long-distance for Derrick Williams. With the help of a 62 percent rate from outside in the first half, the Wolves assumed a 58-42 halftime lead.
Near the end of the game, Atlanta called a timeout, and Dante Cunningham stole the inbounds pass to clinch the win—just like he did in Phoenix on December 29, 2012.
“I just had a feeling they were going to look outside for [Kyle] Korver,” Cunningham said. “It just so happened the play before that, he scored on me, so I guess it was just the feeling. It was the rhythm of the game.” After Cunningham secured the ball for Minnesota, Luke Ridnour hit two free throws to cement the score at 108-103. The win is the Wolves’ second in a row, and it comes before a string of four consecutive away games.
Key Matchup: Jeff Teague and Ricky Rubio
Teague is emerging as one of the league’s top young point guards. At just 24 years old, he has improved in nearly every category with each season. He has also been a solid player from a health standpoint, starting every game for Atlanta for the past two seasons. Teague averages 13.4 PPG and 6.6 APG, and is only a few games removed from a 28-point, 11-assist outburst against Brooklyn.
Standing across from him will be Ricky Rubio. Last year’s flashy rookie has experienced a couple bumps in the road coming back from surgery, but we’re beginning to see some consistency again. He’s dished six assists in each of his last three games, and he’s finally been inserted back into the starting lineup with more minutes. He still has been struggling from the field, however, converting only six shots from the field in as many games. The Wolves need more out of Rubio, and today’s test will be the steady and reliable Teague.
Wolves forward Dante Cunningham missed Saturday’s game against Houston due to illness, and although coach Terry Porter said he did not participate in Sunday’s shootaround at Target Center he was scheduled to make the trip to Atlanta. He is questionable for today’s game. Guard Alexey Shved (ankle) did not make the trip, and center Nikola Pekovic is in the midst of missing 7-10 days with a right quad contusion. Neither will be available today.
The Hawks received a big blow as shooting guard Lou Williams is done for the year with a torn ligament in his right knee, an MRI revealed on Saturday. Meanwhile, guard Devin Harris is questionable with a sprained ankle for today’s game, and Anthony Morrow is listed as questionable after missing the last 12 games with a hip and back injury.
|Today's Probable Starters|
|PG||Ricky Rubio||Jeff Teague|
|SG||Luke Ridnour||Kyle Korver|
|SF||Andrei Kirilenko||Josh Smith|
|PF||Derrick Williams||Al Horford|
|C||Nikola Pekovic||Zach Pachulia|