By The Sports Xchange
MINNEAPOLIS — The Atlanta Hawks got a second chance against Minnesota less than a week after losing a game at home to the Timberwolves, with Dwight Howard back after being held out of the loss.
Howard’s addition in the middle couldn’t stop the Timberwolves from shooting their way to victory from beyond the 3-point line.
Zach LaVine, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins paved the way offensively and Minnesota tied a season high with 15 3-pointers in a 104-90 victory against Atlanta on Monday night.
LaVine, Towns and Wiggins combined to go 13 of 18 from beyond the arc. LaVine had 21 points and connected for six 3s. Towns had 22 points and 11 rebounds and Wiggins scored 21 as Minnesota (10-21) came back strong a day after playing on Christmas for the first time in team history.
“We all understand where our spots are more than last year,” Towns said. “We all understand this is a different system. We started clicking late last year when we understood the system. Now we have a new system this year, so we’ve been taking our time and really understanding. Now we’re understanding where our spots are and where we can shoot the ball.”
The Hawks, who had the weekend off after winning their fourth straight road game on Friday in Denver, was the team out of sync. Atlanta committed 19 turnovers and shot just 42.2 percent from the field.
“Had high hopes coming into this game trying to build off what we did last game,” said Paul Millsap, who was limited to seven points on 2-of-13 shooting. “It just didn’t work out that way. Just got to get back to it, get better, and be there on Wednesday.”
Howard returned after missing three games because of back tightness and had 20 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Hawks (15-16). He was absent as Minnesota won in Atlanta last week.
Howard helped the Hawks to an early lead with seven points and five rebounds in the first five minutes. But he only played 21 minutes in his first game back and Minnesota pulled away in the third quarter even with Howard on the court.
“Some positives, him on the offensive boards, him finishing around the basket,” Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said of Howard’s return. “I think there are some positives. I think his activity and reactions, some other situations, just like all the rest of us, need to be better.”
The Timberwolves outscored the Hawks 35-20 in the third quarter, the largest point differential in the quarter for Minnesota this season. Wiggins hit three 3s and scored 12 points in the third quarter, and the Timberwolves put together a 22-3 run to lead by 28.
“Coming out in that third quarter and really blowing it open and having control the whole second half, we have the capability of doing that,” LaVine said. “We’re so strong offensively. We just have to be able to sustain our defense and hold that as well.”
The young Timberwolves have added more of an emphasis on outside shooting this season, led by LaVine. He has at least five 3s in seven games this season and 12 for his career. Only Kevin Love has more such games in a Minnesota uniform with 16.
“He’s a huge weapon because you’ve got to know where he is all the time,” Wiggins said of LaVine. “He can shoot from wherever. His range is ridiculous. Quick shot, he can get it off with someone else creating or he can create it himself off the dribble. He’s a tough guard.”
The Timberwolves have four games with at least 13 3-pointers made this season for the first time in franchise history.
NOTES: Atlanta G Tim Hardaway Jr. missed his second straight game with a right groin injury. … Minnesota G Zach LaVine has been the team’s leading scorer in 10 of the past 20 games. Heading into Monday, LaVine led the NBA in minutes (37.7 per game) and was 28th in scoring (21.4 points per game) and 15th in free-throw accuracy (88.1 percent). … Hawks PG Dennis Schroder had scored in double digits in 15 straight games, the longest streak of his career, before finishing with eight points on Monday. … Minnesota has a day off before playing Wednesday at Denver. The Timberwolves finish the calendar year with five games in eight days. Atlanta returns home to host the New York Knicks on Wednesday.