The Atlanta Hawks fell — in spectacular fashion — to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the second time this season, falling 104-90 at Target Center. And, to be honest, that scoreline flatters the Hawks, the Wolves just ran the Hawks out of the building. The Wolves outscored the Hawks 66-40 in the second and third quarters, sending the Wolves to just their fifth victory at home. Karl-Anthony Towns shot a perfect 8-for-8 from the field on his way to 22 points while Zach LaVine torched the Hawks from the outside, shooting 6-of-9 from three-point range on his way to 21 points.
For the Hawks, no one outside of Dwight played particularly well, the starters (outside of Dwight) combining for just 30 points.
The Timberwolves tied their season high of 15 three-pointers last night as they shot 15-of-31 from behind the arc. The Wolves were on fire from three but they sure had help because the Hawks did not defend the perimeter very well. That’s not to say the Wolves didn’t deserve the shots they took/made because they moved the ball well last night and made some tough shots too, but they shouldn’t have made as many as 15. Let’s take a look at some of the easier threes the Hawks allowed last night.
A poor pass from Dwight is telegraphed by Ricky Rubio and LaVine drifts out to the three-point line. Kent Bazemore is supposed to be guarding LaVine, but decides to head towards Karl-Anthony Towns instead and leaves LaVine wide open and he knocks the three down.
They say “start as you mean to go on” and, boy, the Hawks and Wolves sure did. Just in their own respective ways…
Watch Dennis Schröder on this possession because this goes by quickly. He’s supposed to be guarding LaVine but is caught napping and the ball finds its way to the open LaVine and he knocks it down.
Who knew it wasn’t a smart idea to leave a 40% three-point shooter wide open?
Andrew Wiggins shoots the three-ball at 36% and he had made two three-pointers (including one just 40 seconds prior to this play) before knocking this wide open three down.
I know there’s a lot of missed calls and knocking around going on in this play, but you can’t leave someone who has it going from behind the arc open like this. No one is even remotely close to Wiggins on this possession. Did Dwight need to drift past him? Could Dwight have tried to stick near Wiggins so he wasn’t as open?
Ricky Rubio is not a good three-point shooter (29% for the season) but give a man enough time and space to set himself and he can knock one down.
Dominique was quick to pounce on this one and I agree with him. You can’t leave someone that open. Sure, sag off of him but don’t leave him with enough time and space to prepare and release. Nearly any professional player can knock a three down if you give them enough time and space.
These were just a few of the wide open threes the Wolves enjoyed last night. The Hawks’ opponents now average over 10 made threes a game and opponents shoot it at 36.8%, ranking 22nd and 26th in the league respectively.
The Wolves, to their credit, did make some tough threes like this:
Leaning back, falling away…
Make no mistake though, the Hawks gave away more threes than the Wolves made. If that makes sense…
“I thought some of them were open and some were tough shots. I think we were a step slow on everything tonight. When you are a step slow, the farthest place you have to go is the 3-point line.” — Kyle Korver
A step slow, huh? Maybe the Hawks had a tad too much turkey on Sunday… Regardless, a very poor showing on the perimeter. It has been a struggle all season and the Hawks need to improve in that area.
Return of Dwight
Dwight Howard returned to the starting lineup last night having missed the last three games with back tightness. Dwight was one of the rare positives from last night, shooting (but mostly dunking) 9-for-9 from the field for 20 points while securing 12 rebounds.
The big positive from this game with Dwight was that he seemed to emerge from this game unscathed and that’s encouraging. The Hawks have been struggling on the glass of late and Dwight returned to help them in that category, 46-40 the rebounding margin in favor of the Hawks. At least the Hawks won something last night, right?
Paul Millsap’s tough night
Paul Millsap has been on a tear recently but last night was probably his worst night of the season so far, seven points on 2-of-13 shooting, five rebounds, two turnovers and one elbow to the face.
Unfortunately, it was a case of friendly-fire, Dwight accidentally catching Millsap while fighting for a rebound (which he at least converted into second chance points). It was a nasty blow, but Paul being Paul didn’t use it as an excuse to keep him out and he returned to the game later in the quarter. Unfortunately the Hawks were 19 points down when he returned and he was unable to help the Hawks turn it around.
Going forward you can be sure that this will not keep Paul out of Wednesday’s game against the Knicks, he’s just too tough for that.
The Hawks followed up their eight turnover game in Denver with an 18 turnover display leading to 22 Minnesota points. These were very costly indeed and just when you think the Hawks are onto something they take a step back.
“Turnovers have been one of our Achilles heels. I would not classify it as uncharacteristic. We need to be better with the ball. It’s going to help us more efficient offensively.” — Coach Mike Budenholzer
Turnovers are just part of who the Hawks are this season. We’re 31 games into the season now, at what point do we just concede that the Hawks are bad at taking care of the ball? I would say now but maybe that’s just me…
The Hawks’ offense wasn’t great last night. The Hawks seemed a little sluggish and the ball wasn’t moving particularly well and that’s because the Hawks opted to settle for a lot of jump shots, particularly threes, of which the Hawks took 32 of last night making just eight.
Here’s an example of the Hawks settling for a three rather than working something. The Hawks come up with a steal in the third quarter and Kent Bazemore leads the break. Baze has four teammates in support: Mike Scott streaks in the middle while Korver, Millsap and Delaney bring up the rear. Instead of hitting the open Delaney or Korver behind the arc and the streaking Millsap down the middle, Baze elects to take a rushed three-pointer that doesn’t fall.
Not exactly the wisest choice considering:
This was just one example, but the Hawks could’ve done a better job moving the ball. The starters combined for just eight of the Hawks’ 20 assists.
Bembry still seeing rotation minutes over Prince
Tim Hardaway Jr.’s absence with a groin injury opened up rotation minutes for one of the rookies and, just as it was in Denver, it was DeAndre’ Bembry who saw those rotation minutes. There are some people who have been surprised that Bembry has seemingly “overtaken” Prince in the rotation but that’s not really the case. At the end of the day, it’s a long season and both rookies will have spells during the season where one will see game time and one won’t. It’s no different than what went down with Lamar Patterson last season.
At the end of the day neither will likely see playoff minutes anyways, and it’s more than likely Coach Bud just wanting to see what each is able to bring to the table during actual minutes and not garbage time.
Prince would eventually see court time, garbage time in the fourth quarter when it was clear that this game was over. Don’t overreact, it’s a long season…
The Hawks (15-16) return home to Philips Arena where they’ll kick off a three game home stand against the New York Knicks on Wednesday in what is a hugely important game.