Less than 24 hours after they utterly dismantled the Philadelphia 76ers, the Atlanta Hawks return home to face off with the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night at Philips Arena. The Hawks saw their last scheduled home game postponed due to the crazy weather conditions in the Southeast this week, but with no threat of issue for this one, it's time to focus on the task at hand.
Both teams are facing a back-to-back situation, but in the case of Minnesota, their experience wasn't nearly as positive. Kevin Love and company dropped a close-fought decision to the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night (while the Hawks were in cruise-control for the entirety of the second half), and the fact that the Hawks are, by far, the more well-rested team should be a big help in this spot.
However, Minnesota is a completely different animal than Philadelphia from a talent standpoint, and that is evident in the numbers. Despite their 23-23 record, the Wolves are soundly better than "average" according to the advanced metrics, as they utilize one of the league's top-10 defenses in outscoring their opponents by 2.3 points per 100 possessions.
Everything for Minnesota begins and ends with Kevin Love, and Paul Millsap will have his hands full in the "match-up of the night." Love carved up the devastating Memphis defense to the tune of 28 points and 16 rebounds on Friday, and with that effort, his season averages have risen to over 25 points and 13 rebounds per contest. Still, Millsap has been playing out of his mind in recent days, and his latest showing against Philly bordered on an assault on the ever-illusive 5x5 game. It will be very interesting to see if Millsap simply draws the assignment whenever he is on the floor or whether Mike Budenholzer chooses to deploy other options to give Love additional looks.
In addition to containing Love and the T-Wolves defensively, there will be significant focus on Jeff Teague as he plays his second straight game after returning from injury. Teague was quite effective on Friday night despite some rough shooting, but in a back-to-back spot against one of the league's best defensive point guards in Ricky Rubio, this is a unique challenge for Jeff. The Hawks are unquestionably at their best when he is able to consistently break down opposing defenses with penetration, and that could be a key to grabbing a win here.
The step up in competition is a severe one for the Hawks, but with their 15-7 home record on display, Atlanta should feel very comfortable, even against a more than worthy Minnesota club.
Game Date/Time: Saturday, February 1, 7:30 p.m.
Location: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM