Hawks, Timberwolves meet while angling to avoid play-in round
The Atlanta Hawks will try to improve their fleeting hopes of avoiding the play-in tournament on Monday when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Hawks are coming off Saturday's 134-125 loss to the Boston Celtics. They trail the New York Knicks by 4 1/2 games in the chase for the No. 6 spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs with only 14 games left. Atlanta is 1 1/2 games behind Miami for seventh place, with the top six teams avoiding the play-in tournament.
Minnesota, which lost 124-123 to Brooklyn in overtime on Friday, has a more enviable playoff situation. The Timberwolves are tied with Dallas for No. 7 in the Western Conference. They are only one game behind No. 6 Golden State, although four of their next five games are on the road.
This is the first of two meetings between the two clubs this season. Atlanta has won the last five meetings between the teams.
The Atlanta players and new coach Quin Snyder, who took over three games after the All-Star break, continue to get accustomed to one another. Snyder wants to see more focus on defense, particularly on 3-pointers after the Hawks gave up 20 makes from distance to the Celtics.
"When a team makes 20 3s, it's hard to beat them," Snyder said. "No excuses. That's part of the mental toughness. We're learning certain things as we go. That's the way it's got to be. There's a lot we can take from this game and there's going to be a process of thinking and thinking correctly."
Atlanta's Trae Young got into a scuffle with Boston's Marcus Smart, an altercation that wound up with both players tangled up on the court and Smart getting ejected. Young said he had "nothing much to say" about the incident and Snyder said there were other issues that were of more concern to him.
"There's going to be a lot of games that provide us with the opportunity to get better and this was a big one," Snyder said.
Young had 35 points and 13 assists against Boston and now has 10 games with at least 30 points and 10 assists, the most in the Eastern Conference.
The Hawks will need to find a way to slow Minnesota's Anthony Edwards, who played at Georgia for one season before being the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2020. Edwards is averaging 24.8 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists. He's also hitting 2.7 3-pointers per game and making 36.8 percent of his attempts from the arc.
Edwards scored 32 points against Brooklyn. It was his 20th 30-point game and his second straight 32-point outing after scoring the same total in a loss to Philadelphia. He is averaging 14.3 points in four career games against Atlanta.
"We're at our best when he's drawing attention, scoring and finding easy shots for his teammates," Minnesota coach Chris Finch. "But two assists is not enough."
Minnesota continues to play without Karl-Anthony Towns, who has missed 47 games with a severe calf sprain. He took part in some on-court drills last week but is still unable to practice. Jaylen Nowell has missed six straight games with a left knee injury and Austin Rivers missed Friday's game with back spasms.
Atlanta's Bogdan Bogdanovic missed the last game with back tightness.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 12, 2023