It’s one thing to lose because you can’t match the opponent’s talent level — and that was true for Minnesota again Friday.
But when you combine that with the sorry effort the Timberwolves put forth at Target Center, it equals a beatdown like the one the Hawks delivered.
Atlanta jumped all over Minnesota early and didn’t look back, blitzing the Wolves 116-98.
Atlanta’s star players spent the evening compiling impressive stats. Trae Young finished with 43 points on 14 for 22 shooting, while making eight triples.. Clint Capela tallied a triple-double with 13 points, 19 rebounds and 10 blocked shots. Once Capela tallied block No. 10 in the fourth quarter, he exited the game. Many of the rest of the Hawks’ starters soon followed. Their work was done for the night.
It was a similar script to other games after Karl-Anthony Towns went down two games into the season with a dislocated wrist, as the Wolves were blown off the floor on a nightly basis.
With Towns now out with COVID-19, the results are largely the same. Minnesota hung with Atlanta four days earlier, but the Hawks got many of their rotational players back since then and played at a significantly higher level than anything Minnesota could muster.
Ricky Rubio played just 15 minutes in his return after a seven-day absence spent in health and safety protocols. D’Angelo Russell went just 2 for 9 in 21 minutes. Anthony Edwards missed his first nine shots.
Trailing by six after the first quarter, Minnesota hit just two of its first 13 shots to open the second quarter as Atlanta opened its lead to double digits. The Hawks were up by 19 at half, and it was clear by then that it was over.
Minnesota shot just 39 percent through the first three quarters. Without Towns and Juancho Hernangomez, it lacks the offensive punch to keep up with opponents and the defensive discipline to win a slugfest.
No one has stepped up — via leadership or production — in Towns’ absence, and the losses have piled up. Minnesota is now 2-2 with its all-star big man, and 1-9 without him.
So the Wolves will likely continue to merely play out the string until Towns returns, at which point they’ll hope to get back to playing competitive basketball.