National Basketball Association
Timberwolves-Hawks Preview
National Basketball Association

Timberwolves-Hawks Preview

Published Nov. 8, 2015 8:10 p.m. ET

The Atlanta Hawks have started fast with a balanced offense, while the rebuilding Minnesota Timberwolves seem ahead of schedule because of a vastly improved defense.

Atlanta aims for an eighth consecutive victory Monday night against a Minnesota team looking to remain perfect on the road.

The Hawks (7-1) have averaged 105.3 points since a 106-94 loss to Detroit on opening night after beating Washington 114-99 at home Saturday. Kent Bazemore continued to impress as Atlanta's lone new starter, scoring 16 of his career-high 25 points in the second half to help his team rally after it was limited to 41 points in the first 24 minutes.

Bazemore has averaged 15.3 points over his last six while going 14 for 24 from 3-point range. He scored just five points on 2-of-9 shooting in his first two contests.


Six different players have led the Hawks in scoring at least once, though Bazemore has done it a team-best three times. Ten players recorded at least 14 minutes Saturday with only Paul Millsap playing more than 29.

Atlanta also had a season-high 37 assists.

"I think we kind of wore them out," said Bazemore, who was 4 of 7 from beyond the arc. "Our depth is something we love, and lean on. Keep guys coming in and out. Guys are playing harder, cutting harder as the game goes on. A lot of (opponents) get fatigued."

Minnesota (3-2) bounced back from home losses to Portland and Miami with a 102-93 overtime victory at Chicago on Saturday, giving the franchise its first 3-0 road start since 2001-02. The Timberwolves held the Bulls to 35.5 percent shooting, including an 0-for-9 mark in the extra period.

They ranked last in the NBA in 2014-15 by allowing teams to shoot 48.7 percent - the league's highest mark since Toronto gave up 49.1 percent in 2005-06 - but are limiting opponents to just 39.2 percent this season.

Minnesota hasn't reached the postseason since 2003-04, and its young roster figured to be another year or two away from having a chance to end the league's longest playoff drought. Of the 10 players averaging at least 15 minutes, six are age 25 or younger, but so far they're defying expectations.

"This is a great win on the road with a young team," 35-year-old forward Tayshaun Prince said after Saturday's victory. "Hopefully, it's a confidence booster as we continue to move forward."

Twenty-year-old Andrew Wiggins had been struggling with his shot but looked better Saturday with a season-high 31 points. He's still shooting 32.4 percent from the floor but was 4 of 5 from 3-point range after going 1 for 9 to begin the season.

"Sometimes it's a struggle when you have so many expectations put on you," interim coach Sam Mitchell said of last year's No. 1 overall draft pick. "We just kept telling him stay aggressive, keep shooting the ball ... eventually it's going to happen."

The Timberwolves should regain leading scorer Kevin Martin (18.8 ppg), who was inactive Saturday due to a family issue but rejoined the team for practice Sunday.

The Hawks are among the league's leaders with 10.8 steals per game, and they had 13 against the Wizards, helping lead to 33 points off turnovers. Minnesota's last two opponents combined for 41 points off turnovers.


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