They would never admit it, but the Atlanta Hawks are probably happy to not see the Minnesota Timberwolves anymore this season. Minnesota swept the season series Wednesday night with a 99-95 win at the Target Center in a physical game that came down to the final possession.
It is a strange occurrence to look at the box score and see Atlanta win the rebounding battle and lose the game. The Hawks finished with a 53-45 edge on the glass and grabbed 15 offensive rebounds. They finished with a 40-36 advantage in points in the paint and only turned the ball over 14 times with seven of those coming in the opening quarter.
Atlanta lost Wednesday because of their inability to make a shot at key moments throughout the game. That was a result of a good defensive effort by the Timberwolves combined with some tired legs by the Hawks who were on the second night of a back-to-back.
"I thought we had a couple of looks, a couple of good shots, that if we made them maybe our lead goes from five to eight or six to nine," Mike Budenholzer said after the game. "Sometimes it's a make-miss league. Rudez made some big shots. LaVine made some big shots. We weren't able to counter. When we needed to make some, we didn't."
Atlanta took a 74-70 lead into the fourth quarter before running out of gas. They went 6 for 22 from the field over the final 12 minutes including 1 for 9 from three-point range.
The Hawks finished the game with just 14 assists which was well off their normal season pace. Minnesota did a great job of defending catch and shoot opportunities. Guys like Kyle Korver made some shots in the first half but often had to put the ball on the floor to avoid a rotating defender. The Hawks managed it well for three-quarters, but it threw the offenses rhythm off.
The Point Guard battle that wasn't
Coming in it appeared that this game would feature a marquee matchup at the point guard position between Atlanta's Jeff Teague and Minnesota's Ricky Rubio. However, it turned into a matchup of Teague against second-year guard Zach LaVine. Teague turned in a good performance with 22 points and five assists and had his way with LaVine early blowing past him on a number of opportunities. LaVine made his impact in the fourth quarter where he scored eight of 16 points to help Minnesota close the game out.
Hawks slow Wiggins
Andrew Wiggins scored 33 points during the first meeting in Atlanta but found the going much tougher in Wednesday's game. He still managed to score 15 but finished the game just 5 for 17 from the field and 0-4 from three-point range. Thabo Sefolosha made his third straight start for the Hawks at small forward and spent most of the evening chasing Wiggins.
Sefolosha had himself another nice offensive game as well finishing with 10 points on 4 of 4 shooting. He is now 11 for 12 from the field over the last two games.
Schedule continues to be unrelenting
While the NBA went to great lengths this offseason to improve the schedule for all teams, the opening month for the Atlanta Hawks has been grueling. The Hawks are 10-7 and their 17 games played are the most in the Eastern Conference. By contrast, the Washington Wizards have played 12 games to this point. To add a little perspective, Atlanta didn't play their 17th game last season until December 3. It isn't going to get any easier for the Hawks who will enjoy Thanksgiving Day off before completing their current three-game road trip with a back-to-back in Memphis and San Antonio on Friday and Saturday. Atlanta closes out November on Monday back at home against Oklahoma City.