For the second time in less than a week, the Atlanta Hawks will be looking to avenge a defeat when they take the floor on Monday evening. The Hawks suffered a close-fought defeat at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday, and now, Atlanta squares off with the Minnesota Timberwolves on the second night of a back-to-back set on the road.
At first glance, this appears to be a walkover game for the Hawks, as the Timberwolves currently boast an 11-40 record on the season. However, Minnesota is currently playing their best basketball of the entire campaign, and with some of their veterans (i.e. Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin) healthy, the Wolves have won a season-high three consecutive games. Back-to-backs are also inherently difficult in the NBA, especially on the road, but on the plus side for the Hawks, Minnesota also played on Sunday evening, cutting down their advantage a bit.
From a match-up perspective, it will be interesting to see how the point guard face-off plays out, especially if the Wolves deploy Ricky Rubio in this spot. Rubio has missed the majority of the season with an ankle injury, and he was given the night off on Sunday, presumably to allow him to play on Monday evening. Jeff Teague briefly exited Sunday night's loss with what appeared to be an ankle injury in his own right, and while there was nothing firm announced after the game, his status for the game against the Wolves should likely be considered as questionable at this relatively early stage. If Teague could not go (or if he's simply given an extra day by Mike Budenholzer), we could see the return of Shelvin Mack, while Dennis Schröder would receive the start.
Minnesota is much better than their record would indicate when they are at full strength, but in the same breath, the Wolves have the league's worst defensive rating (109.2 points allowed per 100 possessions) for the season. That is music to the ears of Atlanta's coaching staff, as Memphis put the Hawks through the ringer on Sunday evening. Still, the Hawks simply missed a great deal of shots that they would "normally" make in that game against the Grizzlies, and there will almost certainly be more opportunities for capitalization against what has been a porous Minnesota defense.
The Atlanta Hawks are (much) better than the Minnesota Timberwolves, and that is the backdrop here. Yes, Minnesota is playing well in the recent past, but Atlanta should be considered a strong favorite to bounce back from what has become a rare defeat on Sunday, and this should be a highly motivated bunch despite the rough circumstances of a back-to-back away from home. Stay tuned.
Game Date/Time: Monday, February 9, 8:00 p.m. ET
Location: Target Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM