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  1. “FOR THE FRENCH’S MUSTARD YELLOW FAUXBACKS… PRESS 3!” The race to Fair-to-Middlin’-ness is on! Greatness is on hold for our dear Atlanta Hawks. When last they left the Timberwolves in Minnesota, they kept the hosts from reaching the .500 threshold while going over the line by one game themselves. All praise due to Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and his seven-three-pointer outing on that December 6 evening. Then, as we know, the bottom dropped completely out. The crisis of confidence from Atlanta’s subsequent 4-13 skid was momentarily averted on MLK Day, when the Hawks got up off the mat to overcome the defending NBA champs, snip a home-game Hawx Hex at a franchise-high ten, and avoid falling nine games sub-.500. In order to win a pair of consecutive home games at the Khakis Kholiseum (7:30 PM Eastern, Bally Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, BS Minnesota) for the first time since November 22, the Hawks will once again have to make Minnesota’s aim at becoming a club with a winning record (22-22) a dream deferred. I can’t subscribe fully to the “Camcer” theories out there in Hawkville. I will always have Draft Day 2019, when it appeared to the consensus in our arena that Travis Schlenk and company pulled a fast one on the jabroni GMs of the NBA. We got plenty of flashes in the pan from Cam Reddish over the ensuing seasons-and-a-half. Sadly, there wasn’t enough steak to justify the sizzle, particularly from a youngster that all but Bledsoe’d his way off the team. The thrilling moments of strip-and-score from Reddish belied a personal inefficiency with team defense that was incompatible alongside our offensive asteroid and defensive crater in Trae Young, and certainly in bench lineups with any of Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari, or Croque Monsieur. So, yeah, I can solemnly acknowledge that Atlanta’s “Camble” didn’t pay off like we all imagined it could back in that summer of ‘19. We as Hawks fans can take solace, though, that our Camble didn’t roll snake eyes as swiftly as the folks who drafted immediately after us. Schlenk may indeed be the star of the weekend Lifetime Movie Network popcorn-muncher, “The Wrong Cameron from the ACC.” The right one, for now, appears to be UNC’s Cameron Johnson, who is making good on his breakout playoff performances from last season. Only, not with the team who drafted him. Attaching the corpse of Dario Saric, Gersson Rosas traded up from 2019’s 11th pick, hoping to have Darius Garland fall into his lap. But Cleveland, with Collin Sexton already in tow, got cute and snatched up Garland one pick earlier than Phoenix’s slot at #6. Shortly after the Hawks traded up to grab De’Andre Hunter, Rosas settled instead for Hunter’s NCAA title-game foil, Jarrett Culver. Oof. Oddly enough, that wouldn’t even be the prime reason for Rosas’ ouster. Before getting handed his walking papers, Rosas would attach the remains of Juancho Hernangomez to Culver, in order to give T’Wolves star Karl-Anthony Towns a backcourt partner who could genuinely help slow opponents’ pick-and-roll. As a shooter, Patrick Beverley has been a train wreck (7.8 FGAs, most since 2017-18; 52.1 TS%, lowest since 2015-16). But that’s never been why Pat Bev suits up as an NBA conductor. Averaging nearly seven assists per-36, by far a career-best, while producing more stops than turnovers (1.2 SPG, 1.2 TOs/game; 0.42 charges drawn/game, 4th in NBA), a healthy Beverley (DNP, along with D’Angelo Russell and Jaylen Nowell vs. ATL on Dec. 6) gives coach Chris Finch’s collective a chance to get on the postseason track. Steph Curry and Draymond Green sat out Sunday’s game at Target Center, making it easier for Taurean Prince and the hosts to put the screws to former T’Wolf Andrew Wiggins and his road-weary Warriors in a 119-99 laugher. They cooled off New York last night, ceding 19 fourth-quarter points after allowing 40 in the third, and averting overtime with an and-one from Towns and some madcap Knick plays late to escape MSG with a 112-110 victory, the sixth in their last eight games. Minnesota is in rare air, for them, as a top-ten defense (108.0 D-Rating, tie-9th-best in NBA), cranking out turnovers from their foes at a league-high 16.8 TO% rate. It could aid the T’Wolves’ cause if they would get to the cup and cease stopping-and-popping in the other direction (56.2 transition eFG%, 4th-worst in NBA; 47.1% transition score frequency, 3rd-worst). It’s essential tonight against an Atlanta team that has been, to this point, the NBA’s worst transition defense (67.3 opponent eFG%, worst by any NBA team in last 7 seasons; 58.9 opponent transition FG%, worst since MIN’s 59.4% in 2015-16). On offense, Minny’s top scorers, including 2021 ROY runner-up Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo along with KAT, don’t draw enough free throw attempts. It’s a problem considering how hack-happy the team is on defense (NBA-highs of 22.2 personals and 25.2 opponent FTAs/game). It can be particularly problematic against a Hawks team that gets stingy with the charity shots (18.0 personals/game, 3rd-fewest in NBA; 19.0 opponent FTAs/game, 4th-fewest). The ones from the free throw line, that is. Perhaps the charity scores will soon be a thing of the past for Atlanta (18-25), if the 71-52 second half edge over the Bucks on MLK Day is an adequate barometer. Onyeka Okongwu’s re-emergence as a fill-in big suggests he should work well in frontcourt pairings with either Clint Capela (out, sprained ankle) or John Collins. Danilo Gallinari showed he can hold his own defensively when he doesn’t have to move much (33.0 opponent isolation eFG%, not far from Gwu Tang’s 23.0%, Delon Wright’s 27.0%, or Capela’s 34.0%). With Collins and Hunter getting back up to speed and improving their lateral movement on D, and the alchemy that is Young switching on pick-and-rolls (39.0 opposing Roll Man eFG%, 14th-best among NBA players with 0.5+ possessions/game defended, just ahead of Collins’ 41.0), there are defensive fortitudes within Nate McMillan’s rotations that have yet to be fully revealed, or exploited. Out in the NBA West, hovering around the .500 mark will be enough to ensure at least a Play-In spot, which is all Minnesota fans can ask for given its tortured history. “We don’t want to be in the Play-In game,” said Edwards’ fellow guard and Atlanta native Malik Beasley (37.5 FG%, but 48.6 3FG% over past five games) after dispatching the Dubs. “We want to be set in the Playoffs. We’re trying to figure out how to get a nice little win streak to get us over the hump.” Go ahead and assume Anthony Davis and the formerly Minneapolis Lakers will sort things out in L.A. once he returns. Same with Paul George’s Clippers, or anybody who makes it back to play for the Nuggets. Those suppositions would leave two Play-In reservations in the West. One could go to any of Damian’s Blazers, Dejounte’s Spurs, De’Aaron’s Kings, or Zion’s Pelicans, whosoever’s heart is still in it come April. The other would belong to the Timberwolves, and there’s no good reason why they’ll want to be in the fray with this latter set of clubs, instead of chasing for a Play-In home game or even a 6-seed with the former grouping. In the East, there seems to be no such luxury. As the NBA turns fully into the back end of its season, a near-breakeven record might have one Eastern Conference team on the outside looking in. Minnesota aided the Hawks’ cause a smidgen by edging the Knicks last night. But New York has three wins, three games in the standings, and a head-to-head tiebreaker on Atlanta. And that’s just in the race to be the last team out of a Play-In game. There are few cupcakes in Atlanta’s forthcoming schedule. But few will be as daunting as Milwaukee was on Monday evening. And for all that currently ails the team, there is the opportunity, through February 3, to play all but one Charlotte road game at The Farm, a unique chance to rectify the doldrums of the recent months before the home crowd. The Timberwolves and Hawks are each deep in the wilderness of the NBA standings. But Minnesota has latitude to skulk out of it later in the season, if necessary. For Atlanta, now is the time to gather their tailfeathers and soar out. Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3
  2. “Alright, whose bright idea was it to invite Anthony Edwards to our Wheelchair Open Run?” Nick Saban. Tom Brady. Kelly Oubre. Yeah, it was a tough weekend here in Atlanta, for local sports teams tackling legends around downtown. Our poor, downtrodden Hawks, however, won’t have to wait until next New Year’s Day, or even Sunday, to mount a bounce-back effort. They’ll hardly have to wait 24 hours. A date with destiny awaits, the Hawks seeking to tame the legendary, incomparable D’Angelo Russell and his Minnesota Timberwolves (8 PM Eastern, Bally Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, BS North in MSP). I’m being a bit presumptuous at the moment, in that there’s no certainty whether T’Wolves coach Chris Finch will grace us all with D-Lo’s grand presence today at Target Center (as always, pronounced “tar-ZHAY” at Chez Lethal). Russell’s got a sore ankle, so Finch may be inclined to rest him up ahead of more seriously prepared opponents soon to arrive for Minnesota’s three-game homestand. Like, Utah. Or, Cleveland. Who else might Finch grant an evening off, to cheer frequent flyer Anthony Edwards (last 5 games: 19.0 PPG, 25.7% on 7.0 3FGAs/game) from the sidelines? Karl-Anthony Towns (bruised tailbone, DNP’d in Friday’s 110-105 loss in Brooklyn)? Patrick Beverley (strained abs, missed last 5 games, MIN 2-3 after a 5-game win streak)? Jalen McDaniels didn’t have to lift a finger to aid Charlotte’s 130-127 win over the Hawks (12-12) last night, so why should lil’ bro Jaden (out last 3 games) rush back from a bout with flu-like symptoms? Should Finch give Edwards’ springy legs a breather after averaging 38.8 minutes over the past half dozen games? Should he give Ant-Man’s ATLbro, guard Malik Beasley (34.6 FG%), more time to shine for the folks back home? Perhaps our old friends, newly starting forward Taurean Prince and two-way big Nathan “Wanna Go Knight” Knight, can borrow more of the spotlight? Should they play? Will they play? Minute restrictions? When you’re facing Atlanta, does it even matter? Members of coach Nate McMillan’s basketball club should have considered trying out for office secretary parts in Mad Men, given they’re proving tremendously skilled at taking dictation. Outplayed in three consecutive home games, McMillan looked on as Tom Thibodeau’s Knicks and Doc Rivers’ Sixers ground the pace of contests down to their respective liking. Then came last night’s defensive flop versus the NBA’s short-staffed league-leading scorers. Wide open shooters around the horn allowed the Hornets to match their hosts shot for shot (17-for-37 3FGs each). Charlotte wasn’t so much pushing the pace as they were finding tasty looks way too early in the shot clock. A handful of Clint Capela’s signature missed bunnies and excessive fouling by Kevin Huerter and plug-in starter Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot turned the Hawks’ path to victory decidedly uphill. By the time Atlanta was interested in trying field goals early in the shot clock, it would be late in the game clock, when the Hawks needed a very much not open Trae Young to save the day. Atlanta is short-staffed, too: Russell will sorely miss endangering De’Andre Hunter’s health tonight, and the Hawks sorely miss a healthy Bogdan Bogdanovic and Cam Reddish as well. But McMillan’s adjustments thus far have fallen short in getting his Hawks to wrest control of tempo away from their opponents, whether those foes found themselves missing key contributors an hour, a day, or a week in advance. Fortunately for Atlanta, Minnesota (100.08 Pace, 8th in NBA) isn’t a low-tempo team, and the Wolves can’t rev things up quite as well as Ish Smith’s Hornets. When they’re allowed, ahem, to control games, it’s through the glass (7-1 when securing 52 percent or more of game rebounds, as per bball-ref). A two-time All-Star in his seventh season, Towns (team-highs of 24.0 PPG, 9.0 RPG) has seen enough wayward T-Wolf caroms to be an expert at offensive rebounding, and 2021-22 is shaping up to be no exception (53.6 TS%, 25th in NBA). But now he has a fellow Wildcat on the front line, in Jarred Vanderbilt (12.1 RPG over last 7 games) taking much of that task off of his plate. Vandy helping produce second-chances off of guard misfires allows KAT (44.2 3FG%) to park himself along the three-point line more often, and to get back in defensive position more frequently. Towns, and accordingly Minnesota (105.5 D-Rating), is seeing some of their most efficient defensive values since the heady days of Flip and KG, even without Pat Bev of late. It’s the newfound ability to get stops that has the Wolves looking functional at 11-12, staying in the mix early on for a Top-6 playoff slot in the rambunctious NBA West. It has been hard to tell what Minnesota team will show up, and not just in terms of roster availability. A win in Milwaukee that raised their record out the blocks to 3-1 was proceeded by a 1-8 skid featuring five double-digit defeats. Then came five straight wins, all by double digits, before losing Beverley and losing the next game in Charlotte by 18. Edwards went 1-for-7 on treys and turned over the rock eight times as the Nets edged the Towns-less Wolves in Brooklyn. As the Nets should. Finch is seeking consistency, and he knows that when his young Wolf pups are guarding and getting boards and stops effectively, they are maximizing their chances at victory no matter what else Edwards and Russell do. As for Atlanta, who forced a season-low six turnovers out of the LaMelo-less Hornets, they seem satisfied with seeking out opponents who will let them off the hook by making their own mistakes. Keeping Vanderbilt and the other Wolves off the offensive glass while keeping lanes clogged for Edwards, and while sinking (Clint, this means dunking) shots off the catch is altogether a team effort. Seizing possession and dictating tempo, in the hunt for favorable outcomes, is all a team effort no matter who suits up for the opponent. The on-court play, and the coaching strategy, cannot be passive if the Hawks intend to enter a three-day break without a three-game losing streak hovering over them. On the second night of a back-to-back with cross-country travel in between, tonight is not one where Trae’s late-game services should be needed in some legendary back-and-forth battle with the likes of Russell. Or, Beasley. Or, Prince. Or, Josh Okogie. Does it matter, really? Forget about Next. Aside from John Collins and Trae Young... Any Men Up, Today? Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3
  3. ~lw3 Prince in Minnesota jokes were right there for the taking. Ya Boi is slipping! ~lw3
  4. All play and no work makes Malik a dull boy. Montana Yao is an All-Time 1st Ballot NBA spouse name. ~lw3
  5. “S GON’ GIVE IT TO YA! HE GON’ GIVE IT TO YA!” Jeff Teague returns to Minnesota as his Atlanta Hawks face the Minnesota Timberwolves (8 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, Fox Sports North in MSP) in what will be a pivotal oh who am I kidding it’s time for TRADER TRAV’S DEADLINE KARAOKE! HIT THE MUSIC! Why teams bait? Once it’s time, they make me wait? Whoo! I rep The ATL best, turns out, we’re 100 percent cap-rich. Even when we’re playing crazy. Yeah, my Hawks got problems, that’s the human in them. Swing deals, then we solve them, what ya gonna do then? Y’all could escape cap hell, at least a little. Just gimme more than a bag o’ Skittles. We might even trade down, but your draft return’s whack. So now you’ve found out I’m not cuttin’ no slack. Why teams bait? Once it’s time, they make me wait? Junk offers, salaries won’t aggregate. LL Cool P sat me on the bar stool. Said, “you’d better get me useful vets, fool. Pull a heist on those loopy Chi-ca-go Bulls, More steals from the Minnesota Blunderwolves. Truth Hurts: we need players I don’t need to pull like DEANDRE’ ANDRE’ BEM BEM BRYYYYY.” You thought you’d make me part with J-Bap? That ain’t smart. You got a truckload full of picks? No? Then don’t even start. Hey, I’m glad you’re still a 6-seed, Relying on Joel Embiid, But Ben will never, ever, ever, ever, ever learn to shoot threes. Trae puts the ‘si-i-ing’ in passing, Ain’t worried ‘bout no place in the standings. So you can tell Ben, “Play Fortnite!” when you see him. It’s okay. He already in KAT’s DMs. Why teams bait? Once it’s time, they make me wait? Capela, since y’all need a tax break. Steve Koonin pulled me in the corner there. Said, “go find folks that can guard a chair. Mo Bamba? Or how ‘bout Robert Covington? The latter is LL Cool P’s favorite son. Truth Hurts: dump them busters that’s expiring and DEANDRE’ ANDRE’ BEM BEM BRYYYYY.” I’d trade Alex Len in a minute, If his health status was definite. But Evan Turner’s spry. Plus, he can shoot – I lied. Now that he got ghost, we’re like, Bye-Bye, Bye! I’d ditch Jabari in a second. ‘Cause Collins in the middle isn’t fecund. We start Damian Jones. That’s why I work these phones. I don’t make no bones, we need Fi-yi-yives! Why teams bait? Once it’s time, they make me wait? Poison pill contracts? Don’t appreciate. T-Ressler got me sittin’ in the hot seat. Said, “better get players that can compete! Work a four-way with the L.A. Lakers, Hang up if you’re offered Dion Waiters. Truth Hurts: we want talent more exciting than DEANDRE’ ANDRE’ BEM BEM BRYYYYY.” Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3
  6. “Aww, c’mon Bud… I’m tryna tell you… they don’t serve Fellini’s Pizza out here!” Okay, Minnesota, you’ve had your fun. Now, cut it out. You and Houston, both. Sorry, Tankamaniacs, but it is Must-Win time for our Atlanta Hawks! There are only a handful of games where the Hawks genuinely can help their fans’ long-term cause by winning, and tonight’s tilt with the Timberwolves is one of them (7:30 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, Fox Sports North in MSP). You’ll remember that last season, the kings of The Process, Philadelphia, fell eight games short of securing the number-one draft lottery odds. The Sixers ended the season with lotto slot #4, slipped to #5 once the ping-pong balls bounced, then used a pick swap with Sacramento to sneak up to #3. But that still wasn’t #1. How did they wind up with the exclusive rights to select the youngster with the bulky shoulder and the free throw yips? They still had assets in their bag to sweeten any possible deal to move up. While it is a tall order, the Hawks might improve the quality of their draft assets with victories in their three games remaining versus the T’Wolves and Rockets. Atlanta holds Minnesota’s first-round pick thanks to the nifty 2015 move to deal 2014’s #15 pick Adreian Payne, whose attempt at directing a sequel to Love and Basketball in his dorm room apparently didn’t go over very well, before that first-round banana could change color from green to brown. That Wolves pick is lottery-protected, but 45 wins is all that should be needed to sew up a playoff spot out West, and there is little reason for this game to be among the baker’s dozen of requisite Ws for postseason-starved Minnesota (32-20). From Memphis to Sacramento, NBA teams are sending all the signals they reasonably can to make it clear they’re fighting for the bottom-dwelling lottery spot. Even after losing three in a row, Atlanta remains the hottest team over the past ten games among the NBA’s bottom-five. But even if the Hawks fail upwards a little, they have assets that no other bottom dweller, save for Phoenix and Philly, has at their disposal to creep up a spot, or three. Many of the lottery teams will need to pull out multiple rookie plums out of this draft pie, not just one good prospect, to begin turning things around, and they will be keeping Travis Schlenk’s cellie buzzing. “U up?” Schlenk and Company can package one, or both, of those low-first-rounders owed by Minnesota and Houston, and even a high second-round pick. In case LeBron World falls to tatters, Atlanta’s got a top-10-protected potential lottery pick from Cleveland in 2019 as well. They could even use some permutation of those three lower picks to ascend to the middle tier of this draft. It’s apparent, sadly, that the Rockets’ first-rounder will hover around the high-twenties through the end of the season. So, it would be nice if the Wolves’ low-first (presently at #25) could somehow slide up into mid-1st territory. No awareness of that strategery makes it easier for the Hawks (14-35) to pull off a fifth-consecutive win over a Western Conference opponent tonight, although one can forgive Minnesota if they’re a bit preoccupied, with playing in Toronto tomorrow and navigating whatever travel issues await once they return home for Super Bowl Weekend. Coach Tom Thibodeau’s club is 3-5 on the front end of back-to-back series, most recently losing last Wednesday in Portland the day before traveling to Golden State. They’ve only swept one of their seven back-to-backs, a homestand against Dallas and Charlotte back in early November. Even if the Hawks rev up the Competititank and fall short tonight, they can at least tenderize these Wolves on behalf of the Raptors. Thibs’ reputation of riding his star players for heavy minutes precedes him. True to form, Jimmy Butler (team-high 21.7 PPG, career-high 50.4 2FG%) places 5th in per-game minutes among active players, while Andrew Wiggins (career-low 50.8 TS%) is 10th, and Butler’s fellow All-Star, Karl-Anthony Towns (career-highs of 9.2 D-Rebs/game, 40.0 3FG%, 83.8 FT%), ranks 14th. 32-year-old Taj Gibson (career-high 33.7 MPG), a Thibs acolyte, is essential for keeping the Wolves’ sketchy team defense (24th in D-Rating) from falling through the floor. Also logging career-high floor-time under Thibodeau: former Hawk floor leader Jeff Teague (33.4 MPG), who turns 30 this June. As was the case with Dennis Schröder during Jeff’s latter years in Atlanta, Teague at least has a precocious up-and-comer backing him up in 21-year-old Minnesota native Tyus Jones (6-for-8 FGs, 5 assists, no TOs in Saturday’s home win vs. BKN). Jones has held the fort capably as a starter, with Minnesota going 6-4 during Teague’s injury absences. The elder guard is under contract through at least next season, but Jones’ vastly improved defensive production (2nd in Defensive RPM, 5th in total RPM among NBA PGs, as per ESPN) has many wondering how soon the heir will become apparent. Versus Atlanta, Thibs will be as inclined as ever to go deep into his rotation and rely on his bench corps in the middle frames. Minnesota will turn to Jones, Gorgui Dieng, future MMA star Nemanja Bjelica, and the irrepressible former Hawk Sixth Man of the Year Award winner, Jamal Crawford, the 37-year-old who would actually like to be on the floor a lot more often (18.9 MPG, lowest since his 2000-01 rookie season). Former North Clayton High and Georgia Tech star Marcus Georges-Hunt has also been seeing more than mere mop-up duty lately. Coach Bud will likely showcase more of North Star State native Mike Muscala (career-high 6.3 PPG, 44.1 3FG%, 3.6 RPG, 1.2 FTs/game, and 0.6 SPG all you GMs out there!) Hawks fans can expect to see more of guard Tyler Dorsey, who acquitted himself as well as anybody (team-high 14 points, incl. 6-for-7 FTs, plus 4 assists) on Saturday against the Wizards, not only tonight but especially after the trade-deadline smoke clears. For the Hawks’ starters and reserves, the key task is simpler said than done: under no circumstances do you foul Crawford (team-high 89.9 FT%; 18.7 PPG last 3 games). Jamal okey-doked a Blazers defender last week to extend his personal record to 52 four-point plays in his career. Keeping Crawford, Butler and the Wolves (NBA-high 19.7 FTs/game) away from the charity stripe can short-circuit their offense and keep the Hawks in the running, even during Atlanta’s more scattershot-shooting phases (27.9 3FG% in Saturday’s blowout loss to wide-open Washington; under 35 3FG% in four of last six games). Facing his former mentor after two consecutive clunkers, Dennis Schröder (30.8 FG% last 2 games) should be able to collect some more gotheeeems and lob-dimes versus a Minnesota squad that can be porous around the rim (NBA-worst 67.0 opponent restricted-area FG%). That should be the case if Dennis smartly uses screens and DHO’s to grant himself space from Teague and/or Butler, and if the action from bigs like John Collins, Dewayne Dedmon and Moose is strong enough to draw Towns (1.5 BPG) further away from the hoop. If Atlanta can continue to even up the points in the paint (only a 36-38 deficit versus the Wizards) tonight, and if the Hawks do a better job of closing out on shooters without fouling, they can give the Timberwolves a run for their draft slot. I mean, money. Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3 View full record
  7. CAUTION: Watch for falling wolves! ~lw3
  8. Kris Dunn's time starts a little earlier than expected? ~lw3
  9. “It’s the Andrew Wiggins Show! Brought to you by your friends at Toothpaste!” Can we at least do better than the Sixers? The Minnesota Timberwolves have banded together away from home, their 5-2 road record including a 117-107 win in Atlanta on November 9, an OT victory in Chicago, a double-digit win in Miami, and two losses by a combined margin of seven points. Here at the Target Center, site of tonight’s rematch with the Hawks (8:00 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast, Fox Sports North), they’ve been a mirror image of themselves. The Wolves (6-8) were 0-6 in front of their home crowd, coming into Monday’s action. They then found themselves down 13 in the first half, then six points with five minutes to go, against a deliberately winless Philadelphia team that ended their 0-17 spell in this same building last year. Thankfully, Philly said, “Sike!” once again. Two nights after bailing Miami out from a 17-point second-half deficit, they gifted Minnesota 20 points in the final five minutes to let the Wolves off the hook. After starting off the season playing well on the road, the Hawks have dropped their last three away games, and know they must put in a better 48-minute collective effort than the Suxers did to avoid stretching the skid to four. While it took a minute, Wolves fans were treated to a howling good time at the close of Monday’s comeback victory, thanks to Andrew Wiggins. His 15 fourth-quarter points brought him to within a point of the career-high 33 points he enjoyed at Philips Arena a couple weeks ago. Wiggins’ assertiveness on forays to the rim drew attention away from his teammates, and he made his opponents pay when he dished the ball off a drive to a struggling Kevin Martin for the game-clinching three-pointer. Wolves coach Sam Mitchell moved K-Mart II back into the starting lineup, hoping it would spark the former high-scoring wing to get beyond his shooting woes. He made two of his five attempts from downtown in Atlanta, but on the rest of the season is 7-for-31, contributing to a career-low 36.5 FG%. Until now, Smitch could turn to stretchy rookie big Nemanja Bjelica (3-for-5 3FGs, 4 assists @ ATL) and Zach LaVine (yes, Lavine: 38.3 3FG%) when he needed sparks of perimeter firepower off the bench. But with Bjelica having missed the past two games with knee soreness and questionable for tonight, Minnesota (last in 3s made and attempted; 27th in 3FG%) needs to lean on Martin more. It was a rough outing on Monday for Karl-Anthony Towns (6 points, 2 rebounds with foul trouble) in his first head-to-head with Philly’s Jahlil Okafor (25 points, 12 rebounds). He’ll try to make up for it with a repeat of his performance in Atlanta (17 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks) a couple weeks ago. Behind Wiggins (15-for-22 FGs), KAT and an active bench, the T’wolves were able to overwhelm the Hawks to the tune of a 72-point first half. Atlanta (10-6) will need a stronger defensive effort keyed by Al Horford, who had light work on Dikembe Mutombo Night (11 points, 4 rebounds, one finger-waggable block) but faced little resistance from Jared Sullinger (7 points and 5 boards). Mike Muscala blocked a pair of shots but was otherwise ineffective off the bench, so we’ll see if Edy Tavares eats away at the minutes of Roseville’s Finest tonight, while Tiago Splitter continues to rest his hip. Jeff Teague (16 points, 9 assists, 3 turnovers) was a fairly steady influence in his return to the starting lineup yesterday, a contrast to an erratic Dennis Schröder (1-for-7 FGs, four assists, 5 TOs vs. BOS). Teague’s defense on a flustered Isaiah Thomas (1-for-6 2FGs) was noteworthy, a good sign heading into his meeting tonight with a different class of lead guard in Ricky Rubio. The Hawks will want to impede Rubio’s penetration, without fouling, and close out on the recipients of his passes, forcing somebody else to make plays. Without Rubio or Bjelica dishing the rock, the rest of the Wolves have an assist-turnover ratio of 0.98. Schröder fits many of the characteristics of a player who will get needled by Minnesota’s Kevin Garnett. That’s a good thing if it’s during the flow of the game and Dennis is playing better, since it will take KG’s defensive attention away from the multi-talented Paul Millsap (10-for-13 2FGs, 9 rebounds last night). Schröder needs to find his open bigs on his dashes to the glass. Filling in for Hawks starter Kent Bazemore, Thabo Sefolosha had a pretty complete game last night (7-for-8 FGs, 7 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 blocks), and it’s good to have some help off the bench from rookie Lamar Patterson (3-for-5 3FGs, career-high six rebounds) in his third consecutive game of 20-plus-minutes. After playing just briefly yesterday, Justin Holiday is likely to get into the act tonight to help relieve Kyle Korver (team-high 33 minutes, 3-for-3 3FGs vs. BOS) and Sefolosha. Tim Hardaway, Jr. was thrilled to be back on the floor last night and may get some burn again as well. Two-way production from a deep bench could make a difference for Atlanta in tonight’s game. Mitchell is struggling to find defensive answers between Gorgui Dieng, LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad, Andre Miller, and Damjan Rudez, which is another reason Tayshaun Prince was relegated in favor of Martin. In the aftermath of coach Mike Budenholzer’s incidental ref-bump and subsequent fine, it’s no coincidence that Atlanta was whistled for a season-tying 25 personal fouls on Tuesday, sending the Celtics to the line for 26 free throw shots. The Wolves (28.1 FT attempts per game, 4th in NBA; 79.9 FT%, 5th in NBA) will be thankful for some favorable calls, especially the tenacious Garnett, Wiggins and Martin. The Hawks’ ballhandlers and screen-setters must avoid the risk of offensive foul calls that will slow down the game in Minnesota’s favor. Happy Thanksgiving! Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3 View full record
  10. He's baaaaaaaaaack! ~lw3
  11. Timberwolves' Ricky Rubio could miss two months with ankle injury ~lw3
  12. I know the pickings are getting slim, but c'mon! ~lw3
  13. ~lw3
  14. Last big-time free agent is FINALLY off the board. My James Johnson Watch starts now. ~lw3
  15. ...but would they do THAT? ~lw3
  16. and Flipped! ~lw3