Atlanta won the most games in the Eastern Conference last year, a franchise-record 60. Minnesota won the fewest games of any team in 2014-15 so it's an obvious mismatch Monday, right?
Wolves Look Improved
Minnesota (3-2) has been off since a 102-93 overtime win in Chicago on Saturday, the team's third road win already. Pretty good since the Wolves had seven road victories all of last season, finished at 16-66 and earned the No. 1 overall draft pick (winning the lottery). Andrew Wiggins, the 2014 No. 1 overall pick and last season's Rookie of the Year, broke out of a bit of a slump vs. Chicago with a season-high 31 points although it did take him 27 shots to do it. That was his fifth career 30-point game and two points shy of his career high.
“The first two games, he was hurt,” Wolves coach Sam Mitchell said in referring to Wiggins’ back injury. “Sometimes you struggle when there’s so many expectations put on you. But we kept telling him to stay aggressive, keep shooting the ball, keep finding your shots in the offense and eventually it’s going to happen.”
Karl-Anthony Towns, the No. 1 overall pick this year, had 17 points and 13 rebounds. Towns and Atlanta's Al Horford are teammates on the Dominican Republic national team. Nemanja Bjelica had 17 points and 11 rebounds off the bench. The Wolves held the Bulls scoreless in overtime.
Minnesota remains without starting center Nikola Pekovic, who is recovering from surgery on his right Achilles' tendon back in April and out indefinitely. The Wolves played Chicago without guard Kevin Martin as he attended to a family matter. Martin is expected back for this game. Martin, who doesn't start any longer, is averaging 18.8 points per game.
The Timberwolves are 3-2 against the spread on NBA odds and 2-3 'over/under.'
Hawks Are Back Atop East
Atlanta (7-1) has won seven in a row since a surprising opening loss to Detroit. The Hawks are off a 114-99 home victory over Washington on Saturday. Kent Bazemore, who has moved into the starting lineup this year after the Hawks lost DeMarre Carroll to free agency, had a career-high 25 points. Bazemore, known more as a defensive guy, is averaging 12.1 points despite combining for just five points in the first two games.
Paul Millsap added 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists. The Hawks had 73 second-half points and closed the game on a 24-7 run. The Hawks entered the game third in the NBA is assists per game at 25.0 and finished with a season-high 37. Atlanta's big offseason acquisition, center Tiago Splitter, was inactive for the first time this season, but Coach Mike Budenholzer said it was just a rest day.
The last time the Hawks won seven straight games was their team-record 19-game win streak of last season. A win over Minnesota was part of that (see below). If it comes down to free throws that bodes quite well for Atlanta, which is hitting an amazing 81.5 percent from the stripe.
The teams met Jan. 25 in Atlanta and the Hawks won 112-100, their 16th straight victory at the time. Millsap led Atlanta with 20 points and Horford had 19. Two guys no longer with the Timberwolves, Thaddeus Young (26 points) and Mo Williams (20), were their top scorers. It was Minnesota's 12th straight loss in Atlanta. On Feb. 9 in Minneapolis, the Hawks won 117-105 behind 28 points and eight rebounds from Horford and 26 points from Carroll (now with Toronto). Millsap had 19 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in the second of a back-to-back. Martin led Minnesota with 21 points. The Wolves outrebounded the Hawks by 14.
Give the points, go 'over' the total. Minnesota is 2-7 ATS in its past nine after a win. The Hawks are 11-4 ATS in their past 15 at home against teams with a winning road record. The 'over' is 4-0 in Minnesota's past four against teams with a winning record. The 'over' is 5-1 in the past six meetings.
NBA Picks: Hawks -9 & Over 203 at Heritage