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The Hawks got a much-needed win on Monday when they beat the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks 121-114 for the second time this season. The result ended a 10-game homecourt losing streak -- one shy of matching the franchise record. The Hawks outscored the Bucks 38-26 in the fourth quarter and used a 14-2 stretch to stun Milwaukee.
Minnesota, meanwhile, is on a roll. The Timberwolves have won two straight after a 112-110 road victory over the New York Knicks on Tuesday, and they have won six of their past eight to creep to within one game of avoiding the play-in round of the playoffs.
This is the second and final match between the two teams this season. The Hawks prevailed 121-110 on Dec. 6 in Minneapolis for their fourth straight head-to-head victory. Minnesota's last win in the series came at Atlanta on Nov. 22, 2019.
Hawks coach Nate McMillan hopes the victory over the Bucks will get his team going in the right direction.
"It first starts with believing," McMillan said. "You've got to believe that you can win a game, and I think we've had some doubt with all the guys being out for the last two months. You've got to believe that you have a chance to win and then you've got to go out there and perform. I thought our guys did that. They were together. They were connected."
Atlanta has benefited from the defense of De'Andre Hunter and the development of Onyeka Okongwu, who has taken most of the minutes at center as an ankle injury has kept Clint Capela out for five consecutive games.
Hunter, who missed 26 games with a right wrist injury, has scored 20 points twice in the four games since his return. Okongwu missed the first 28 games of the season due to offseason shoulder surgery and missed four other games due to COVID-19 protocol. Since Capela has been injured, Okongwu is averaging 8.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 27.6 minutes.
"He plays bigger than he looks," Hunter said of Okongwu. "I make fun of him all the time, saying he's only 6-5, but he plays really hard. He's a lot stronger than he looks and he's really athletic."
Okongwu will have his hands full with Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns, who converted a three-point play with 29.3 seconds remaining to lead his team past the Knicks.
"That was the biggest moment I've had at Madison Square Garden," said Towns, who scored 20 against New York. "Great crowd, great atmosphere, great energy and I got to silence everybody, so that made it even better."
Towns, who is averaging 24.5 points and 9.2 rebounds this season, had 31 points and 16 rebounds in the first meeting with Atlanta this season.
Minnesota's Jaylen Nowell, who had been hobbled by an ankle injury, produced 14 points, six rebounds and three assists in 23 minutes off the bench Tuesday.
Atlanta will again be without Capela, as well as Bogdan Bogdanovic (right knee soreness). Minnesota's Jordan McLaughlin is out due to health and safety protocol.
--Field Level Media