Timberwolves Wrap: Hanging on in Atlanta

Dec 21, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins (22) works against the defense of Atlanta Hawks forward Thabo Sefolosha (25) during the second half at Philips Arena. The Timberwolves defeated the Hawks 92-84. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 21, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins (22) works against the defense of Atlanta Hawks forward Thabo Sefolosha (25) during the second half at Philips Arena. The Timberwolves defeated the Hawks 92-84. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Timberwolves have won three out of their last four games after an eight-point victory over the Hawks in Atlanta on Wednesday evening.

125. 92. 86. Final. 84

After a gut-wrenching, two-point overtime loss to the Houston Rockets on Saturday night, the Timberwolves have now won two consecutive games for the first time all season.

The Wolves led for much of the game against the Hawks including a five-point halftime advantage, but Atlanta surged ahead late in the third quarter and took a two-point lead heading into the final frame.

After struggling with the Timberwolves’ duel-center starting lineup early, Atlanta switched to a much bigger lineup of their own, and it paid dividends. Minnesota native Mike Muscala played 30 minutes off the bench and gave Gorgui Dieng trouble on the perimeter, scoring 11 third quarter points as the Hawks took the lead.

On the opening possession of the fourth quarter, however, Zach LaVine drained a three-pointer to give the Wolves a lead that they would never fully relinquish. While there were a handful of ties in the fourth, the Hawks would never lead again.

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It was a game with a lot of sloppy offense, and thankfully for the Wolves, Atlanta was cold from beyond the arc, shooting just 7-for-26 (26.9 percent) on the night. Minnesota’s defense was tough early but seemed to pretty obviously wear down throughout the game, and as the contests came later and later, the Hawks simply kept missing shots.

The Wolves were content to allow their bigs to trail point guard Dennis Schroder around screens on the way to the rim, and while he knocked down a few tough shots in the lane, he shot just 10-of-21 from the field, including 1-of-7 from beyond the arc.

On offense, the Wolves were sloppy and inefficient too, turning the ball over 17 times and shooting just 42.2 percent from the field and 31 percent from beyond the arc. They mostly ran the offense through Karl-Anthony Towns, and other than some rough patches laden with turnovers, things went fairly smoothly.

It’s the first winning streak of the season for the Wolves, and we’re 28 games in. It’s also three wins over the last four games, with the only loss coming in the late-game collapse against the Rockets on Saturday. It makes it all the more frustrating, but other than the three minutes or so when the Wolves essentially ceased to function at the end of the Houston game, it’s been a fantastic stretch of four games.

Tweet of the Night

Player of the Game

Zach LaVine: 18 points (5-12 FG, 4-8 3P, 4-4 FT), 4 rebounds, 2 assists, one steal, one block

LaVine was very good on Wednesday night, keeping the Wolves’ bench afloat on an inefficient night (the trio of Nemanja Bjelica, Kris Dunn, and Shabazz Muhammad combined to shoot just 6-of-21 from the field), and knocked down tough jumpers when playing with the starters as well.

Towns had the gaudy line of 17 points, 18 rebounds, and five assists, but turned the ball over six times while struggling with double-teams once again.

Notable Timberwolves Lines

  • Karl-Anthony Towns: 17 points (7-16 FG, 0-3 3P, 3-4 FT), 18 rebounds, 5 assists, one block, 6 turnovers
  • Andrew Wiggins: 19 points (9-19 FG, 0-3 3P, 1-1 FG), 7 rebounds, 2 assists, one block, one turnover
  • Ricky Rubio: 10 points (3-5 FG, 2-3 3P, 2-2 FT), 8 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 6 turnovers
  • Gorgui Dieng: 12 points (5-10 FG, 0-1 3P, 2-2 FT), 9 rebounds, 3 blocks, one steal, one assist

Towns was good overall but has a lot of work to do when it comes to decision-making in the post. At times he forces shots through double and triple-teams, and at other times he throws unnecessary skip passes and forces passes into traffic.

Wiggins had a quiet but solid night, with just one turnover but also only a single free throw attempt. There were a lot of jumpers coming from Andrew in this one. Rubio was great, save for the six turnovers. Dieng was, per usual, solid from start to finish.

Next: The Case For Keeping Tyus Jones

Who’s Up Next?

The Timberwolves head back to Minneapolis to host the 11-17 Sacramento Kings — one of the four teams that the Wolves will need to hop over in order to slide into the playoff picture. Friday night’s game tips off at 7:00 p.m. at Target Center before the Wolves head to Oklahoma City for Christmas Day showdown on Sunday.