LaVine steps up to help Wolves beat Hawks 99-95
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) No one Minnesota Timberwolves player dominated on Wednesday night. It was different players at different points of the game coming up with timely shots, tough defense or the extra pass.
It was a performance that the Atlanta Hawks could appreciate, if it didn't come against them.
Zach LaVine had 18 points, six assists and five rebounds in place of the injured Ricky Rubio, and the Timberwolves swept the season series with the Hawks with a 99-95 victory.
Andrew Wiggins scored 15 points on 5-for-17 shooting for the Wolves (7-8), who won their second home game in a row after an 0-6 start at Target Center. The Wolves entered the night last in 3-point field goals, but went 9 for 21 against the Hawks and got 58 points from their bench to beat a team that prides itself on balance and selflessness.
''If we beat them, we can beat anybody,'' Wiggins said.
Paul Millsap had 22 points and 10 rebounds and Jeff Teague scored 22 points for the Hawks (10-7). But Atlanta shot just 37.8 percent from the floor and 25 percent on 3s for its fifth loss in seven games.
''If a team can say they beat the No. 1 team in the East last year, it looks good on their resume, I guess,'' Millsap said. ''But that's the bed that we made, and you know we've got to accept that. Any time we come into somebody else's place or even at home, we've got to understand that the target's on our backs and we've got to match the other team's physicality and aggression.''
Damjan Rudez scored 13 points and hit 3 of 4 3s for Minnesota. Gorgui Dieng had 10 points and 11 rebounds.
LaVine was roasted on defense by Teague in the first half, including a streak of 10 straight Atlanta points in the second quarter.
''He was killing me first half,'' LaVine said. ''But that happens to everybody in the NBA. I had to go back at him.''
Rubio first tweaked his left ankle on Monday against Philadelphia and tried to play through it on Wednesday. But another spill in the second quarter ultimately limited him to 21 minutes.
LaVine hit a couple of big shots in the fourth quarter and Wiggins converted a tough layup in traffic with 1:25 left to put the Wolves ahead for good.
The Hawks ran circles around the rest of the Eastern Conference during an electric regular season last year before losing to the Cavaliers in the conference finals. But the going has been a little tougher in the first month of this season as teams are little more prepared for the buzzing ball movement and 3-point bombing that the Hawks bring every night.
''Well, we didn't start off the season great last year either,'' said Kyle Korver. ''I think everyone remembers it was after Thanksgiving we had a really good run. It's not Thanksgiving yet.''
The first meeting between these teams was a wild one in Atlanta, with the Timberwolves jumping out to a 34-point lead in the third quarter and then giving it all back. But Wiggins took over down the stretch, and the young Wolves closed out a 10-point win that bolstered their confidence early in the season.
The ankle Rubio injured was the same one that limited him to 22 games last year and required surgery in the offseason. He said it was just a tweak and that he hoped after a day off he would be ready to play against Sacramento on Friday.
''You start wondering why, putting in all the work I've been putting in,'' Rubio said. ''But some things you can't control. I don't want to be worried. I just want to work hard and be ready for the next game.''
Hawks: Coach Mike Budenholzer said it was too early to tell if Tiago Splitter and Kent Bazemore, who were both out again on Wednesday night, would be ready to play by the end of the week. ... The Hawks are staying in Minneapolis for Thanksgiving on Thursday before heading to Memphis to face the Grizzlies.
Timberwolves: Nemanja Bjelica missed his fourth straight game with a bruised left knee. ... Adreian Payne fouled out in 12 minutes on Monday night against Philadelphia and picked up five fouls in 16 minutes against Atlanta.
Hawks: Visit Memphis on Friday.
Timberwolves: Visit Sacramento on Friday