Minnesota Timberwolves forward Karl-Anthony Towns (32) vies for a rebound with Atlanta Hawks forwards Dewayne Dedmon (14) and John Collins (20) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 28, 2018, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)
Ten observations from watching Hawks at Timberwolves on TV. . . .
The Hawks sent a lineup missing Dennis Schroder (ankle) against the Timberwolves, who should have been desperate. They were smarting from their home loss to the Grizzlies on Monday, a terrible result for them as they try to hang on to a playoff spot in the West. Yet Minnesota was content to get into a shootout with the East's worst team and won because Karl-Anthony Towns is so much better than any Hawks player on the floor tonight. Towns went for a career-high 56 points, a franchise record, on 32 shots. At least the loss helped the Hawks in their efforts to find a talent like Towns in the draft.
Even without All-Star wing Jimmy Butler (knee) the Timberwolves have plenty of scorers. Towns is the best among them. He scored 26 points on 14 shots in the first half. At halftime, Hawks assistant Patrick St. Andrews told Fox Sports Southeast's Andre Aldridge: "We've got a couple adjustments we are going to make, hopefully make it a little tougher on him and make him pass the ball a little more." Towns scored 13 points on eight shots in the third quarter and 13 points over the final 4:08 of the game.
Towns played 41 minutes. He made 13 of 24 two-pointers, six of eight three-point attempts and 12 of 15 free-throw attempts. Towns also collected 15 rebounds and four assists. His defensive awareness is shaky but Towns has everything else.
Despite the monster effort from Towns, the Hawks were down 110-104 after Mike Muscala's three-pointer with 4:31 to play . That's because the Timberwolves are not a good defensive team (24th in efficiency before tonight, one spot below the Hawks). To get open shots the Hawks only needed to play with pace and move the ball. They made 13 of 27 three-point shots
In his return home, Muscala scored a career-high 24 points on just 10 shots. His return to form shooting three-pointers has set up an effective pump fake and push-shot runner. Muscala's strong finish to the season means he could have a real decision to make on his contract option.
Hawks rookie John Collins looked alive from the tip. He made a three-pointer on a nice feed from Damion Lee and, two possessions later, trailed Lee on the break and put down a transition dunk.
Colllins is 10-for-30 on three-pointers this season (9-for-28 before tonight), including 9-for-20 over his past 25 games. Collins' three-pointer tonight from the top of the key was his first non-corner make of the season, according to Cleaning the Glass (garbage time excluded).
Towns was a tough cover for Collins. Towns is a powerful and smooth scorer around the basket and a good three-point shooter. He was able to get good position on Collins, Dewayne Dedmon and any other Hawks big that tried to keep him away from the basket (Muscala probably was most effective). At least Collins stayed out of foul trouble.
Defense was especially lacking on the interior for both teams. There was easy passage to the rim down the middle of the lane. Maybe that's why Hawks point guard Isaiah Taylor seemed overeager to drive at times. He committed three of his five turnovers on wild moves to the basket. Taylor offset those miscues with eight assists and 20 points on 11 shots.
Minnesota lost the first meeting in Atlanta in large part because ex-Hawks point guard Jeff Teague seemed out of it. He was only marginally better in the rematch, with his defensive effort especially waning (Taylor took advantage). Teague's three-pointer with 2:07 to play essentially put the Hawks away.
About the Author
Michael Cunningham has covered the Hawks and other beats for the AJC since 2010.