The Atlanta Hawks have a great chance to build upon their blowout win over the Philadelphia 76ers as the injury-stricken Minnesota Timberwolves travel to Atlanta to play at Philips Arena tonight. Minnesota will already be without Nikola Pekovic in this game, but Kevin Love may also be unavailable after he rolled his ankle in the second quarter against the Memphis Grizzlies. Love ended up finishing the game, but afterwards he said the ankle was not feeling well and he was experiencing some major pain. If Love is unable to go for the Timberwolves, the Hawks’ chances of winning this game increase dramatically.
Without both Pekovic and Love, Atlanta should have no problem attacking the rim on the offensive end. Over the last seven games the Hawks are averaging 50 points per game in the paint, and I see no reason why they can’t do that again with the absence of two starting big men for the Timberwolves. Paul Millsap, who has been tearing opponents up lately, could be in store for a huge performance tonight at home. If Love can’t go, Dante Cunningham will probably get the start in his place at power forward which could be trouble for Minnesota. There’s no way Cunningham will be able to stop the recently named All-Star of the Hawks. Millsap poses a huge mismatch for Cunningham and should be able to impose his will in the paint against a weaker opponent.
The key for the Hawks if Love is unable to go in tonight’s game will be stopping Kevin Martin. Martin is the only player who can provide a huge game offensively in order to help his team come out of Atlanta with a big road win. He’s averaging 19.1 points per game for the Timberwolves this season, and with the possible absence of Love he’ll be asked to carry the load offensively in tonight’s game. If the Hawks can just contain Martin they should be able to easily pull out a win over Minnesota. Coach Mike Budenholzer has the right guy to get the job done against Martin with DeMarre Carroll on the floor, too. Carroll is one of the premier defenders in the NBA which means he should have no problem stopping his smaller opponent in the game tonight.
If Love is available to play, Minnesota definitely increases their chances of winning. However, Atlanta comes in as the hotter team and should walk out with a win on their home floor. The offense has been clicking on all cylinders lately, and tonight will be no different when the Hawks face the poor defense of the Timberwolves.