The Atlanta Hawks haven't lost back-to-back games since November. A big night from a pair of their stars prevented it from happening on Monday. Al Horford and Paul Millsap bounced back from sub par outings on Sunday to help lead the Hawks to a 117-105 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Horford and Millsap combined to score 10 points on 4-21 shooting in Sunday's loss at Memphis. Millsap eclipsed that total in the first quarter Monday in Minnesota as he knocked down 6-9 attempts on his way to 13 points in the opening period. Millsap helped set the tone early and stuffed the stat sheet with 19 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
"Al and Paul are both high-level players that have been very, very consistent. I think that's been one of their trademarks," said head coach Mike Budenholzer after the game. "I think they both wanted to come out and have a good start and help our group, and they found a way for all of us to play better."
While Millsap carried the load early, it was Horford who did the heavy lifting down the stretch. Horford scored 15 of his season-high 28 points in the fourth quarter. He also finished with eight rebounds, three assists and a pair of blocked shots. Horford scored nine straight points in the fourth after Minnesota cut the lead down to 12.
"The shots I took today were no different than last night, today they just happened to fall," Horford said. "It's hard to explain."
DeMarre Carroll sets career-high with 26 points
DeMarre Carroll will be the only Hawks starter who won't be traveling to New York for All-Star Weekend but he might be the most unsung part of the group. Carroll came up big in Monday's win scoring 11 of his career-high 26 points in the third quarter. He finished the game 9-13 from the field, 2-3 from three-point range and also recorded four rebounds and three steals.
Carroll is routinely matched up against the opposing team's best player but his hustle and determination also plays a big part on the offensive end of the floor for Atlanta. Since January 1, he's shooting 52 percent from the field and over 42 percent from three-point range.
Jeff Teague shakes off sore ankle
Atlanta received a scare on Sunday as Jeff Teague went down with an ankle injury during the fourth quarter in Memphis. Teague later returned to the game but there was some concern as to how he'd be feeling on Monday. Teague warmed up and was back in the starting lineup and showed no ill-effects although he did admit that it stiffened up on him during the second half.
Teague ended up playing 32 minutes and finished with 12 points, seven assists and three steals while going 4-7 from the field.
Hawks rebounding struggles show up again
If there is a concern with this Hawks team it comes in the rebounding department. Minnesota won the battle on the boards 50-36 and finished the game with 23 offensive rebounds. Those extra possessions allowed the Timberwolves to hang around although Atlanta was able to limit them to 26 second-chance points. That isn't a good total by any means but it could have been much worse.
Some of Atlanta's rebounding issues are a trade off where they sacrifice to excel in other parts of the game. The Hawks don't typically attack the offensive glass and rather choose to focus on their transition defense. Their front court is undersized but the Horford and Millsap combination has been a pain for bigger front lines to defend at the other end of the floor.
Atlanta has taken a team approach to battle their rebounding issues as the coaching staff expects the other players on the court to pitch in on the boards. Horford and Millsap combined for 17 rebounds against the Timberwolves but the Hawks are going to need bigger contributions from the other starters and their bench in the second half of the season.
Atlanta wraps up their road trip Wednesday night in Boston with a match up against the Celtics before heading into the All-Star break. Monday's win improved their season record to 43-10 and increased their lead in the Eastern Conference standings to 7.5 games.