Here we go again.
The Atlanta Hawks, a shell of a team at this point in the season, will visit the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center Wednesday evening. The similarities between this matchup and Minnesota’s previous one, in which they lost to the blatantly tanking Memphis Grizzlies, are uncanny.
The Hawks have come out on top once in their last 10 games, and enter tonight with a slew of injuries on the roster. They will be without Dennis Schroder, Kent Bazemore and Malcolm Delaney, to name a few. With the Wolves going up against such a short-handed roster, one would hope Thibs will extend the leash he has on his own bench, but after Monday’s loss against the Grizzlies, that might be wishful thinking.
Now is as good a time as any to give the bench some run with a light stretch of games to close out the season. The starters could use the extra minutes of rest as they gear up for what’s sure to be an average of 40 minutes per game in the first round of the playoffs, assuming they make it there. And judging by what we saw in the Memphis game (and even the Philadelphia game on Saturday), the bench might actually be the answer to winning games like these.
Bear in mind, the Wolves already dropped a game to Atlanta this season back in January. That was a game largely dominated by Schroder and Bazemore, which won’t be an issue tonight with both of them out. But that game also saw the Hawks’ bench outscore the Wolves 46-24.
If Minnesota’s starters come out flat and lethargic like they did against Memphis, this game will likely come down to bench play. Players like Tyus Jones and Marcus Georges-Hunt, who are hungry and still have fresh legs this late in the season, should be getting minutes in games like these, because they can absolutely have a positive impact.
Even despite the awful setback for the Wolves on Monday, there is good news coming into this game. The San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets and New Orleans Pelicans all lost last night, which means the Wolves are still just one game out of the fifth spot in the West. They currently hold the eighth seed and are half a game behind the Utah Jazz, who host Boston tonight on ESPN. Sunday’s matchup with Utah is shaping up to be a doozy.
Prediction: Nope. I’m not falling for that again.