Their top rebounder is back, but now the Atlanta Hawks have to find a way to replace their leading scorer.
Atlanta (27-20) has struggled lately, losing four of five since a three-game winning streak from Jan. 19-23.
The Hawks are coming off a 110-107 loss to Milwaukee on Saturday that began a three-game stretch away from Philips Arena. Josh Smith continued his strong play during Horford’s absence with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Smith has averaged 18.3 points and 9.4 boards during the 12 games Horford missed with a bone bruise in his right knee.
Atlanta lost seven of 12 and was outrebounded by an average of 4.9 without the second-year center.
Horford is averaging 10.8 points and a team-high 8.7 boards. In Atlanta’s last game in Minneapolis, Horford had six points and seven rebounds in a 94-87 victory on Nov. 24, 2007.
Johnson, who had a game-high 25 points with five assists in that win, did not accompany the team to Minnesota due to a possible viral infection. Named an All-Star reserve last Thursday, Johnson scored his 10,000th career point in Saturday’s loss. He is among the league leaders, scoring 21.5 points per game.
After averaging just 4.0 points and shooting 15.6 percent from the floor during the Hawks’ three-game skid from Jan. 25-28, Mike Bibby is scoring 22.0 points and hitting half of his shots (15-of-30) in the last two contests. He hit 4-of-8 from 3-point range and scored a team-high 24 points on Saturday.
Bibby missed last season’s game in Minneapolis with a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Minnesota (17-30) snapped a three-game losing streak on Tuesday with a 116-111 win over host Indiana. Al Jefferson had just 12 points - breaking a string of nine straight 20-plus-point games - but Randy Foye scored 19 to lead seven Timberwolves in double figures. It was Minnesota’s eighth win in 2008-09 when Jefferson has not led or tied for team scoring honors.
“When teams feel they have to do that to me, my teammates are going to step up,” said Jefferson, who added 15 rebounds on Tuesday for his 27th double-double of the season. “I have trust and confidence in my teammates to come and take over the game like they did tonight.”
Foye is averaging 18.8 points and 4.6 assists as the Timberwolves have gone 13-7 since a 13-game skid from Nov. 29-Dec. 23.
“They’re starting to get a little rhythm with each other and that’s the biggest thing,” said Minnesota coach Kevin McHale, 13-15 since taking over for the fired Randy Wittman on Dec. 8. “They have to be able to find each other and believe in each other. Life’s not worth living if you don’t have belief in something.”
Kevin Love continues to provide a big boost off the Timberwolves’ bench. The rookie posted his third double-double in six games on Tuesday with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Minnesota won eight straight against Atlanta at the Target Center prior to losing the last two matchups at home.