PREVIEW: The Atlanta Hawks visit short-handed Timberwolves

Jan 20, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Detroit Pistons center Mason Plumlee (24) attempts a shot against Atlanta Hawks center Clint Capela (15) and is fouled by Capela during the second half at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta and Minnesota, who were on opposite sides of fourth-quarter comebacks in their most recent outings, square off Friday in Minneapolis.

The Hawks overcame a 17-point, fourth-quarter deficit to score a rousing 123-115 overtime victory over the Detroit Pistons. Also on Wednesday night, Minnesota squandered a 20-point lead and lost to the Orlando Magic 97-96 on a last-second 3-pointer.

It will be the second meeting this week for the Hawks and Timberwolves.

Monday night in Atlanta, the Hawks defeated Minnesota 108-97, which was the first game in which the Timberwolves were without the trio of Karl-Anthony Towns, Ricky Rubio and Juancho Hernangomez because of COVID protocols. The three players will be unavailable until next week.

The Hawks have enjoyed the enhanced play of center Clint Capela, who has given the team a dominant rebounder and a potent inside scoring punch. Capela collected a season-high 27 points and a career-best 26 rebounds on Wednesday against the Pistons. He is averaging 14.3 points and 14.2 rebounds and has double-digit rebounds in 11 straight games.

“He’s beasting down there right now — no other way to put it,” teammate John Collins said.

Capela is the first player to get 25 points and 25 rebounds in a game since Towns had 27 points and 27 rebounds on Jan. 12, 2019. The last Atlanta player to do it was Dikembe Mutombo in 1999.

“This is what I do,” Capela said. “I just did it multiple times.”

Related: If you’re a fan of the Hawks, check out #TrueToAtlanta rumors, rankings, and news here.

Minnesota was on the negative side of a comeback on Wednesday. The Timberwolves rode three 3-pointers from D’Angelo Russell in a 24-1 run in the second quarter, but could not put the game away. Orlando pecked away and won it when rookie Cole Anthony made a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

“I feel like we gave the game away,” Minnesota rookie Anthony Edwards said. “We had the game. I can’t say we had it, but we had control of the game the whole fourth quarter.”

Coach Ryan Saunders said, “We didn’t do some things that got us to that point. I thought we started making things up defensively, in terms of, ‘Let’s switch this’ as opposed to sticking to our solid game plan. Can’t do that. That’s not a recipe for winning.”

The Timberwolves have had trouble scoring points; they rank 25th in the NBA with 106.8 points per game. The lack of offense has been magnified since Towns (22 points per game) has been sidelined following a positive COVID test.

With Towns unavailable, the Timberwolves have leaned on Russell (21.4 points) and Malik Beasley (19.2 points). Minnesota has lost three straight games, dropped 10 of 11, and has the worst record in the NBA West (3-10).

Read More: Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns tests positive for COVID-19

Russell said, “I feel like I’m saying the same thing every game. Just playing hard the whole game. At the end of the game, it gets tight and close and you’ve got to turn it up a notch. I don’t think we’re there yet.”

The Hawks are hopeful that Trae Young is emerging from his scoring slump. Young is averaging 24 points, but had averaged 16.3 over the six previous games before pouring in 38 points — 32 in the second half and overtime in the victory over Detroit.

Young had 20 points on 3-for-8 shooting Monday against Minnesota.

Atlanta played Wednesday without De’Andre Hunter (right knee soreness) and Cam Reddish (left knee contusion). Reddish has missed three straight games.

The teams have split their last 10 meetings in Minneapolis.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Minnesota Timberwolves, check out #Timberwolves rumors, rankings, and news here

–Field Level Media