The Atlanta Hawks and Minnesota Timberwolves square off in an East vs. West showdown with both teams currently sporting a three-game losing streak, which means the winner of tonight’s game will be the lucky team to avoid a fourth straight loss.
The Hawks lost against New Orleans (Friday), Toronto (Sunday) and Phoenix (Monday), while the Timberwolves were beaten by Houston (Thursday), Phoenix (Sunday) and Memphis (Monday).
This is the second-and-final meeting of the season between Atlanta and Minnesota. The Hawks won the first matchup 120-113 in Atlanta on Feb. 1, despite a ridiculous, video game-like performance from All-Star Kevin Love, who finished with 43 points and 19 rebounds while sinking 17-of-18 free throws in 38 minutes of action.
The Hawks and Timberwolves also have another thing in common: they’re both missing key players due to injury, as Atlanta is short shooting guard Kyle Korver while Minnesota is missing big man Nikola Peovic — both are starters.
Pekovic has been sidelined for the past five games — tonight makes six — with a sore ankle.
Rookie center Gorgui Dieng, who won the 2013 NCAA Championship last year with Louisville, has been filling in for Pekovic and has done a hell of a job, averaging 12.2 points and 13.8 rebounds per game in Pek’s five-game absence. Dieng had a career performance — by any player’s standards — on Thursday at Houston when he posted a monster double-double with 22 points and 21 boards.
Korver has been inactive for the past three games — tonight makes four straight — due to back spasms, which flared up during warm-ups on Friday prior to the Hawks hosting the Pelicans.
Atlanta’s backup point guard Shelvin Mack has been filling in as starting shooting guard in Korver’s absence, but coach Budenholzer will shake things up tonight and slide defensive specialist DeMarre Carroll down to SG and give second-year forward Mike Scott the start at the wing.
Tip-off is set for 8:00 p.m. (ET).