Among the things keeping the Minnesota Timberwolves within striking distance of a playoff spot in a crowded Western Conference are their performances at home and production from Derrick Rose.
In the competitive West, 14 of 15 teams are at least .500 on their home floor, creating a jam-packed race where having a 16-18 record leaves you slightly out of the eighth-place slot. The Wolves are 12-5 in Minnesota and often are getting productive nights from Rose.
Left ankle inflammation has sidelined starting point guard Jeff Teague for five straight games, and he will miss another game Friday night when the Wolves look to add to their home record by hosting the Atlanta Hawks.
Teague’s ankle injury has allowed Rose to start the last five games he has appeared in. Rose sat out Sunday’s two-point win at Oklahoma City with an ankle injury after exiting last Friday’s loss in San Antonio with that injury.
He returned from the injury and helped Minnesota get its fourth road win by scoring 24 points on 11-of-19 shooting in a 119-94 victory in his return to Chicago. The Wolves improved to 4-6 in games Rose started, and Wednesday’s contest was the former No. 1 draft pick’s 15th game with at least 20 points, and Minnesota is 5-10 in those games.
“The big thing with Derrick, he’s on his way again,” said Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau, who coached Rose from 2010-15 in Chicago. “Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end and I think his end is going to be great.”
After his latest productive showing, Rose is averaging 18.7 points on 48.9 percent shooting, and, as a starter, he is averaging 23.8 points on 46.7 percent from the floor. His scoring average is his highest since averaging 21.8 in 39 games in 2011-12, and his field goal percentage is his highest since also shooting 48.9 percent in 2009-10.
“My body feels good. I’m not forcing anything, and I’m letting the game come to me,” Rose said. “If anything, I’m playing the Chicago way of playing basketball. It’s gritty. It’s grimy. It’s one-on-one. It’s doing whatever it takes to get the win.”
After another productive night by Rose, Minnesota will attempt to get three straight wins for the third time this season. One of those runs was a four-game winning streak from Nov. 23-28 to get to 11-11. The T-wolves are 5-7 in their last 12 games, including a 3-2 mark at home.
Besides another big game from Rose, Karl Anthony-Towns totaled 20 points and 20 rebounds Wednesday and is facing the team he scored a team-record 56 points against in a 126-114 home win on March 28.
The Hawks (9-24) are coming off a 129-121 home loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday after winning a season-high three straight, by beating Washington, New York and Detroit. Atlanta is 6-8 since dropping 10 straight from Nov. 6-23 with all of its wins coming by eight points or fewer.
“It’s a good measuring stick for us,” Atlanta guard Kent Bazemore said. “We came up a little short, just the small things that get you over the hump. We’re learning. We’re growing.”
During their last 14 games, the Hawks are averaging 112.1 points, shooting 45.9 percent and getting 27.2 assists, up from the 103.2 points and 42.5 percent shooting in the 10-game skid. The Hawks allowed 116.6 points during the skid and are giving up 118.1 since, though it’s inflated by the 144 allowed in Brooklyn on Dec. 16.
The Hawks are continuing to get productive nights from second-year forward John Collins. Collins totaled 21 points and 11 rebounds Wednesday for his third straight double-double and 10th since returning from an ankle injury that kept him out for the first month of the season.
Bazemore scored 32 Wednesday and is averaging 19.3 points on 47.1 percent shooting in his last seven games since returning to the starting lineup in place of Taurean Prince. Prince is out with a sprained left ankle and is not expected back until January.
Minnesota has won five of the last six meetings with Atlanta after dropping 15 of the previous 17.