Fresh off their first win in the last six games the Minnesota Timberwolves travel to Atlanta, Monday to face another team that has struggled as of late, thanks in large part to injuries to key players.
The Wolves are coming off an impressive win over the Houston Rockets on Saturday thanks to some improbable contributions from two guys they had signed that morning. Mickael Gelabale & Chris Johnson combined to score the first 23 points of the fourth quarter to provide a big boost and the W.
Minnesota comes into tonight's game three games under .500 at 17-20 as well as 6-14 on the road, 3-7 in their last ten games and are currently ranked 10th in the Western Conference. The Hawks are 22-18 thus far as well as 13-7 at home, losers of their last two straight games, 2-8 in their last ten games and currently ranked 6th in the Eastern Conference.
The Wolves and Hawks already met once this season and it was just a week and a half ago at the Target Center on January 8th. The Wolves got a big game from Nikola Pekovic and Dante Cunningham made a couple of 'clutch' plays in the final minute to seal a narrow 5-point W. Pekovic finished with 25pts, 18reb, 1ast, 1stl; Kirilenko added 21pts, 6reb, 5ast and Derrick Williams came off the bench to dump in 17. Josh Smith had 21pts, 13reb, 7ast, 1stl & 2blks & Lou Williams added 21pts, 4reb & 8ast in 43 minutes.
Unfortunately, two of the players listed above won't be playing tonight...
The Wolves will have ten healthy players for tonight's game. They'll be without Kevin Love (broken hand), Brandon Roy (knees), Chase Budinger (knee), Malcolm Lee (knee/hip), Nikola Pekovic (thigh) and Alexey Shved (ankle). Dante Cunningham missed Saturday's game with an illness, but did travel with the team to Atlanta on Sunday and is expected to play.
The Hawks are having some injury problems of their own (nothing in comparison to Minnesota, but they certainly have their 'fair share'). Word came this weekend that Lou Williams has torn his ACL and will be out for the season. The Hawks have a number of players that are listed as day-to-day as well and will likely be gametime decisions in this one: DeShawn Stevenson (knee) and Anthony Morrow (back) both didn't play on Saturday, but could play tonight. Devin Harris did play on Saturday, but rolled his ankle and didn't return. It's more than likely he won't play in this one.
The last time these two teams played, the TWolves snapped an 11-game streak of losses to the Hawks. Now, they'll play in Atlanta where they've lost their last nine games in ATL. Both teams are losing players to injuries and both teams have struggled since that meeting in early January. The Hawks have played seven games since then and gone 2-5 over that time, while the Wolves have played six games and gone 1-5 in that time.
The Hawks' last game came against the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday night. The Spurs sat Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli is still out with that hamstring injury he suffered vs. the Wolves a week ago, but Tony Parker carried the Spurs with his 23pts & 12ast for the five-point Spurs win; 93-98. Josh Smith finished with 21pts, 8reb, 3ast, 1stl; Kyle Korver added 19pts, 8reb, 1ast; Jeff Teague had 16pts, 4reb, 8ast and Al Horford contributed 9pts, 15reb, 6ast & 1blk.
Let's take a look at the probable starting lineups for this one...
These are the starting lineups both teams used in their games, Saturday night. If the Hawks do indeed decide to go with their two center lineup, the Wolves better hope that Greg Stiemsma & Derrick Williams make a concerted effort on the boards tonight. Minnesota was out-rebounded by a +6 on Saturday and that was with the Rockets' best rebounder: Omer Asik looking completely lost out there. We can hope the same will happen tonight in Atlanta, but I wouldn't count on it! Gotta box out, put a body on someone and go up and get the boards.
The Wolves may change up the starting center position. Their other options remain: Dante Cunningham or Lou Amundson (if they want to go small) or, of course 10-day Chris Johnson. My guess is Stiemsma (unfortunately) remains the starting center until Pekovic comes back.
That's all for now, tipoff is set for 1pmCT, that's 1pmCT!!! We'll have a full gameday recap following the final horn, enjoy the game and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!