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Timberwolves-Hawks Preview

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With a rotation that's light on star power but heavy on balance, the Atlanta Hawks are rolling offensively.

The suddenly high-scoring Hawks look for a fifth win in seven games Saturday night when they host a Minnesota Timberwolves team that's seen a recent dip in its offensive production - and may be dealing with a hobbled Kevin Love.

Atlanta comes into the game averaging 109.7 points over its last seven contests, 8.3 more than it scored per game in its first 38.

Paul Millsap has led the way with 20.0 points per game over the Hawks' 4-2 stretch, but their depth has become critical with Al Horford done for the season and Jeff Teague struggling recently with a sprained left ankle. Atlanta (24-21) shot 50.6 percent in Friday's 125-99 rout of Philadelphia and put seven players in double figures, led by 18 apiece from reserves Mike Scott and Elton Brand.

"Guys have to be ready," said Brand, who added eight rebounds. ''You never know when your name is going to be called."

Minnesota (23-23) had won five of six before falling 94-90 to Memphis on Friday, the third straight game the Timberwolves - who are fourth in the NBA with 105.8 points per contest - had been held to 95 or fewer.

Twelve first-half turnovers were a big reason Minnesota put up a season-low 37 points in the opening 24 minutes.

"We are disappointed, you know," guard J.J. Barea told the team's official website. "It's a loss, so we're disappointed. It doesn't matter that we finished (strong), it's still a loss. We've got to come out (against Atlanta) and go from the get-go."

That'll be easier said than done if Love is hurting. Love rolled his ankle in the second quarter against Memphis and played the second half despite limping around, telling reporters after the game that he was in considerable pain.

"When I was moving it felt fine and I continued to keep it moving,'' said the All-Star starter, who had 18 of his 28 points in the third quarter. ''But right now it doesn't feel so good. We just need to do all we can before (Saturday) night and hopefully be ready to go."

The Grizzlies scored 56 points in the paint Friday, taking advantage of the Timberwolves' second straight game without Nikola Pekovic (right ankle bursitis). The Hawks figure to pick up right where Memphis left off after averaging 50.0 points in the lane over their last seven.

While Minnesota is struggling without its starting center, it's having trouble sometimes even justifying playing its starting point guard late in games. Rick Adelman benched Ricky Rubio in the fourth quarter Friday in favor of Barea, who had eight points and two assists in the final 12 minutes and, according to his coach, was "the best option for us to win."

''It's coach's decision and I respect it. He always does what he thinks is best for the team" Rubio said. "Of course I wish I could play, but I respect my teammates and my coaches and what he decides."

Barea had 14 points and seven assists in 23 minutes off the bench in place of Rubio when these teams last met, but it didn't help Minnesota end Atlanta's dominance in the series. The Hawks rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit at home to beat the Love-less Timberwolves 104-96 on Jan. 21, 2013 - their 10th straight home win in the series.

Atlanta has won 12 of the last 13 meetings overall. Love missed both meetings last season, including a Pekovic-led home victory.

The Hawks are the only team Love has never beaten in his six-year career.

Tagged: Hawks, Timberwolves, J.J. Barea, Al Horford, Kevin Love

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