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Dwight Howard returns in forgettable Hawks performance

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Hawks big man logs double-double in return from three-game absence.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Minnesota Timberwolves Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

Dwight Howard made a solid return to the court for the Atlanta Hawks Monday night but unfortunately it didn’t lead to the desired result. Howard logged a double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds but Atlanta trailed by as many as 29 points in a 104-90 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Howard missed the previous three games due to tightness in his lower back. He appeared healthy and rested early on as he scored seven points and pulled down five rebounds in the opening quarter. Howard finished a perfect 9 for 9 from the field but there was also some negatives to his performance according to head coach Mike Budenholzer.

''Some positives, him on the offensive boards, him finishing around the basket,'' Budenholzer said. ''I think there are some positives. I think his activity and reactions, some other situations, just like all the rest of us, need to be better.''

Atlanta went small to start in two of the three games missed by Howard. Now they must reintegrate him into the rotation at both ends of the floor. Right now the biggest challenge appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Since November 18, Atlanta is just 6-14 and has a defensive efficiency rating of 108.0. That is 23rd in the league and is a mighty fall from when they opened the season as one of the league’s best defensive units. Their net rating over that span is negative-8.1 which is 28th in the league.

That is over a month of sub optimal play and something that this team is going to have to figure out quickly if they hope to meet their lofty preseason goals.