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Game Preview #45: Wolves at Hawks

Minnesota will look to build upon their current two-game winning streak.

Atlanta Hawks v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Harrison Barden/Getty Images

Game Info

Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (22-22) at Atlanta Hawks (18-25)
When: 6:30pm CST
TV: Bally Sports North
Radio: 830 WCCO AM Radio
Line: Hawks -1.5

What To Watch For

Fresh off of a big victory in Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night against the New York Knicks, the Minnesota Timberwolves are back in action again on Wednesday, this time down in Atlanta as they take on the Hawks.

After a couple disappointing losses last week against the Pelicans and Grizzlies, the Wolves have rebounded quite nicely over the last few days, first knocking off future All-Star starter Andrew Wiggins and the Warriors on Sunday, and then throwing a laptop through the Knicks defense on Tuesday on route to their second straight victory. Minnesota currently sits at 22-22 (7th in the Western Conference), and the 22 wins are just one shy of their entire win total from the previous 2020-21 season, when the Wolves finished 23-49.

The biggest storyline this season (aside from the team being .500) has obviously been the improvements made on defense, but my personal favorite subplot has been the emergence of 22-year old Jaylen Nowell.

The former second round pick out of the University of Washington has now tallied double-digit scoring in 11 of his past 14 games, and one of those “misses” came against the Pelicans when Jaylen rolled his ankle two minutes into the game and was forced to sit out. Simply put, Nowell has been a revelation off the bench in his third year, and has given the Timberwolves something they haven’t had much of over the years — a consistent, reliable scorer who can get his own shot whenever he wants.

In my opinion, Nowell flat-out won Minnesota the game on Tuesday night in Madison Square Garden, attacking from the perimeter, getting to his spots, and drawing a timely foul on Mitchell Robinson that ended the center’s night earlier than expected. For all of the ups and downs that players like Jaden McDaniels, Malik Beasley, and Naz Reid have brought to the table this season, Jaylen’s consistency (especially over the last month or so) has been a bright spot for a team still lacking talent and depth in the second unit and has been a joy to watch on a nightly basis.

As for tonight’s opponent — as their record shows, it’s been a frustrating 2021-22 campaign for the Atlanta Hawks. At 18-25, Trae Young’s team currently sits 12th in the Eastern Conference, which is a fairly steep fall when you consider they were in the Eastern Conference Finals just a handful of months ago. With that in mind, the Hawks are coming off of a fairly impressive victory over the Bucks on Monday, a win that snapped a 5-game losing streak and a 10-game losing streak at home.

It’ll be a short turnaround tonight for a Minnesota team that didn’t successfully check-in to their Atlanta hotel until 3am earlier this morning, but that’s how life goes in the NBA. After making their way back to .500 for just the second time since before Christmas, the Wolves will have another strong opportunity tonight to add to their win total and create more distance between themselves and the bottom dwellers in the Western Conference.

Injury Reports

In terms of injuries, it’s more of the same for Minnesota tonight. Jordan McLaughlin is still in the Health & Safety Protocols, Leandro Bolmaro continues his stint down in Iowa, and Jaylen Nowell is PROBABLE with a left ankle sprain (likely caused from being a walking bucket).

As for Atlanta — they will be without both Clint Capela (ankle) and Bogdan Bogdanovic (knee) tonight. With those two out (especially Capela), I’d expect the Hawks to throw a combination of Onyeka Okongwu and our dear friend Gorgui Dieng at KAT to try and prevent him from having another All-Star caliber night.

Have fun. Be safe. Go Wolves.