Wiggins, Towns give Timberwolves boost over Hawks
ATLANTA — When the Minnesota Timberwolves won on Dec. 13 at Chicago, Karl-Anthony Towns sensed a change in the team’s confidence.
“I think after the game in Chicago, we have a different swagger to us, a different walk, a different talk,” he said. “And that’s a sign that we’re growing.”
Andrew Wiggins scored 19 points, Towns had 17 points and 18 rebounds and Minnesota beat the Atlanta Hawks 92-84 on Wednesday (Thursday Manila time).
Zach LaVine added 18 points for the Timberwolves, who earned consecutive wins for the first time since April 5-9 and have won three of four overall.
Dennis Schroder finished with 21 points and Paul Millsap had 18 points and 10 rebounds for Atlanta, which has lost six of seven at home. The Hawks have lost during that span to four teams – New Orleans, Detroit, Orlando and Minnesota – with losing records.
Atlanta dropped its previous home game last Saturday to Charlotte, which had dropped four straight. The Hawks lost to the Hornets the night after winning at Toronto, the second-best team in the Eastern Conference. They lost to Minnesota two nights after an emotionally lifting victory at Oklahoma City.
It was the Hawks’ second straight game without center Dwight Howard, their leading rebounder and third-leading scorer. Howard is out with back tightness.
Ricky Rubio stole the ball from Kyle Korver and fed LaVine for a fastbreak layup and an 85-80 lead with 5:07 remaining. The Hawks pulled within three on the next possession, but Minnesota was never threatened from that point on.
“That’s life in the NBA, man,” Millsap said. “You win a big-time game on the road and then come home against a team you’re supposed to beat and you lose. Every night you have to bring that same intensity. The OKC game was definitely a mentally and emotionally draining game for us.”
Minnesota kept its composure late in the game, the kind of building block coach Tom Thibodeau has been seeking for his young team. The Timberwolves, who won despite 12 lead changes, blew a nine-point lead in the final minute of regulation in last Saturday’s overtime home loss to Houston.
They took an early lead in Monday’s win over Phoenix and never trailed after the first quarter, but against the Hawks, Thibodeau was unnerved by late turnovers.
“Everything stresses me,” he said. “And again, you want to eliminate all the ways in which you beat yourselves.”