Who: Atlanta Hawks (12-12) at Minnesota Timberwolves (11-12)
When: 7 pm CST
TV: Bally Sports North
Radio: 830 WCCO AM Radio
Line: Wolves -2.5 | O/U 222.5
back at home for the week.— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) December 6, 2021
Wolves vs. Hawks
7pm CT, @TargetCenterMN
Preview » https://t.co/zOAYfH4TL8 pic.twitter.com/3sjrUcE5Yz
The Timberwolves return home to Target Center to take on a banged up Hawks team playing on the second night of an inter-time-zone back-to-back, and for the third time in four days.
Atlanta is without both Bogdan Bogdanovic (right ankle sprain) and De’Andre Hunter (right wrist surgery), two of the team’s five players who average double-digits in scoring and are top-five in minutes played. To make matters worse, Trae Young, Kevin Huerter and Cam Reddish were all listed as questionable heading into yesterday’s matchup with the Hornets. Young and Huerter are active, while Reddish is out.
Karl-Anthony Towns (bruised tailbone) and Jaden McDaniels (flu-like symptoms) each missed the Wolves’ encouraging, short-handed loss to the Nets on Friday, but are slotted to make their return to the lineup tonight.
What To Watch For
Tonight’s matchup is a somewhat similar one to facing off with Brooklyn because Atlanta also loves to operate in the mid-range; however, the ways in which they get into the mid-range are far different. Atlanta runs by far the most pick-and-roll of any team in the Association (on 25.6% of possessions), while Brooklyn runs the second-least (on 12.9% of possessions), per Synergy.
Unlike past seasons, Minnesota is an elite pick-and-roll defense when it mitigating the impact elite pick-and-roll guards have made. The best playmaking performance came from LaMelo Ball, who registered 13 assists to four turnovers in a Wolves loss a couple weeks ago. However, Chris Finch’s defense has allowed only two guards to register an assist-to-turnover ratio north of 2.00 (Chris Paul and Ja Morant), and neither of them shot better than 43% from the floor.
The Wolves are holding opponent ball-handlers to 0.79 points per possession (fifth in the NBA) and allowing just 11.8 points per game to ball-handlers in PnR actions (second), per Synergy. Their length and lateral mobility the team possesses (especially in players such as Jarred Vanderbilt, McDaniels, Josh Okogie, Leandro Bolmaro, Anthony Edwards and even D’Angelo Russell, at times) has thrived in Finch’s new, more aggressive, at-the-level PnR defense.
Atlanta’s ball-handlers, behind Young’s league-leading 15.0 points per game, and score 26.3 points per game in PnR (most in the NBA); and, unfortunately, Finch won’t be able to stop the bleeding with Patrick Beverley, who was upgraded to questionable yesterday after missing the last five games. Beverley is set to be re-evaluated this week; he took part in shootaround in Brooklyn on Friday and was an active participant in practice yesterday, but is out again tonight.
Expect to see Leandro Bolmaro — making his first career start tonight — matched up with Trae Young; Finch will utilize Doc Rivers’ playoff strategy of putting size (Ben Simmons) on Young to bother him in the PnR.
The Wolves rank 20th in the NBA in defending roll men in the PnR (1.15 PPP), while Atlanta ranks third (1.28 PPP) on the offensive end. Towns, who has struggled defending bigger players all season long, figures to have to guard the physically imposing Clint Capela tonight; unlike previous games against massive bigs, he won’t have reinforcements to call if he gets into foul trouble.
So, the key for Minnesota will be forcing arguably the most well-armed PnR offense out of the paint, where the Wolves can contest shots more easily. Nate McMillan’s squad ranks second in 3-point percentage (37.8), but are 25th in 3-point attempts, so the Wolves have their hands full in grounding a high-flying Hawks offense capable of erupting on any given night.
On the other side of the ball, Minnesota will have to manufacture offense without their two primary ball-handling guards. Russell will miss his third game this season with a sore right ankle, while Beverley is missing his sixth consecutive contest with a left adductor (groin) strain.
Bolmaro figures to get a good amount of reps as the lead playmaker with Russell down, while Edwards and Jordan McLaughlin figure to get some added reps as primary offensive creators with the starters and bench, respectively.
Atlanta will be without both Bogdanovic and Cam Reddish (who didn’t play last night with a left wrist sprain), so Minnesota’s trio of Edwards, McDaniels and Malik Beasley will need to throughly outplay Atlanta’s wing crew of Kevin Huerter, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, and Danilo Gallinari if they want to come out the other side of the final buzzer victorious.
John Collins will likely get the Towns assignment, with Capela manning the paint while Vanderbilt flies around. The Wolves will need Vanderbilt to be active as a screener, short-roll passer and cutter in order to move Capela around and keep him away from the rim as much as possible.
The winning formula for Finch and the Wolves figures to be a heavy dose of Edwards (or Bolmaro)/Towns pick-and-roll, with the other three players causing chaos with screens, cuts and off-ball movement into open space for spot-ups.
- Jaden McDaniels (flu-like symptoms)
- Karl-Anthony Towns
- Patrick Beverley (left adductor strain)
- D’Angelo Russell (sore right ankle)
- Jaylen Nowell (back spasms)
- McKinley Wright IV (G-League two-way assignment)
- Trae Young (quad soreness)
- Kevin Huerter (quad soreness)
- Bogdan Bogdanovic (right ankle sprain)
- Cam Reddish (left wrist sprain)
- Solomon Hill (right hamstring strain)
- De’Andre Hunter (right wrist surgery)
- Onyeka Okongwu (right shoulder surgery)
I’m giving out a gambling pick before every Wolves game this season. So far, I am 16-7 (70%).
Tonight’s play: Jarred Vanderbilt O8.5 rebounds
- Vanderbilt is averaging 12.3 rebounds over the last five games
- Vanderbilt has gone O8.5 rebounds in seven of his last eight games
- PFs are averaging 10.1 rebounds against the Hawks thi season
- Will be inside a good amount defensively guarding John Collins on post-ups and helping battle on the glass against Capela