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Wolves expect stiff test from Atlanta in rematch of Nov. 9 victory

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

There. I wrote it. I know it’s a cliché, but I’ve always wanted to use that line. And when you’re talking about the Timberwolves’ 117-107 victory in Atlanta Nov. 9, it applies. The Wolves came out on fire in that game playing what most would agree is the best half of basketball this season while building a 72-42 halftime lead against a Hawks team that had won seven straight.

Then the Hawks roared back, pulling within nine after a 42-21 third quarter and even taking a lead in the fourth before the Wolves finished the game on an 11-0 run to win. So, the Wolves played great, they played horribly, then they showed grit at the end. What does that game, in its entirety, tell them heading into tonight’s rematch with the Hawks at Target Center?

“It shows we have to finish,” rookie center Karl-Anthony Towns said. “The race is not over halfway, just because you have a great lead. We have to continue to play and finish the game the way we started. Don’t get lazy.’’

Tonight’s rematch will be interesting. The Wolves are coming off their first home win. The Hawks – who beat Boston by 24 at home Tuesday – will be finishing a back-to-back. But you have to figure Atlanta will have a lot for the Wolves tonight, considering how that game went in Atlanta a couple weeks ago.

They key will be to play like they did in the first half of that game, not the way they did to start the second. “To be up 30 in one half? It’s crazy,” said Zach LaVine. “We need to come out with that same aggression, that same concept.’’

Here are some other items from today’s shootaround:

--The players we talked to today said getting that first home victory – over Philadelphia Monday – was a big hurdle. “Yes, but we know we have to play really hard tonight. Because we just beat Atlanta on their home court. We know they’ll try to return the favor.’’

--It appears Nikola Pekovic is progressing in his rehab from surgery on his Achilles. Already doing some light running, Pek did some two-on-none drills with Ricky Rubio after the shootaround today.

Have a good rest of your day.

Home losing streak ended, now the Wolves get Atlanta

You’d think having his guys watch the tape of the victory in Atlanta Nov. 9 would be a perfect teaching tool. The Wolves won that night. They built a 34-point lead, then lost it. They fell behind in the fourth quarter, but finished the game on an 11-0 run to win.

So, in one 48-minute tape you have it all. What to do, what not to do.

But Wolves coach Sam Mitchell was having none of it after Tuesday’s practice. “It’s never helpful when you give up a 30-point lead,” he said. “We turned the ball over, didn’t make shots, stopped doing the things we did to get the lead. You don’t want teaching point after giving up a 30-point lead.’’

Perhaps. But Wednesday the Wolves host the same Atlanta team whose seven-game winning streak was broken in that Nov. 9 game.

And the Wolves are coming off their first home victory of the season, Monday against Philadelphia. Actually, according to Kevin Martin, that first home win is the biggest thing.

“All the pressure was on us,” Martin said. “We didn’t want to be the team to keep losing at home. And against a team that hadn’t won yet. All the pressure was on us, and we got through it. We got the monkey off our backs. Now we have a great opportunity tomorrow.’’

Here are some notes from today’s practice:

--Both Mitchell and Martin said they hoped the way Martin ended Monday’s game will mean the end of his shooting slump. Martin made three of four second-half shots and scored nine of his 11 points in the final two quarters. The big shot, of course, was his three-pointer with 28.4 seconds left that put the Wolves up five.

--Nemanja Bjelica, who missed the last two games with a bruised knee, did some light work in Tuesday’s practice. He is listed as questionable, again, for tomorrow.

--Mitchell said Ricky Rubio, who turned his left ankle Monday, is OK and practiced fully.

--The Timberwolves hosted 100 soldiers and veterans at an open practice session before the team’s regular practice Tuesday.

The day began with the soldiers being served brunch by Wolves coaches and players wives and significant others in the Mayo Clinic Square skyway. Then, in the facility, the soldiers met the players and participated in some shooting matches, then watched much of the team’s practice.

I asked Martin if he’d gotten beaten in a game of HORSE. “No, but they beat (Karl-Anthony Towns) and Tyus (Jones),’’ Martins aid. “I don’t know if they  let ‘em win. But they did get beat.’’

TV Listings

Local Schedule

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  • Nebraska-Omaha at Gophers men's basketball

    2 pm on 1500-AM

  • Gophers women's hockey at MSU Mankato

    2:07 pm

  • Winnipeg at Wild

    3 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Gophers women's basketball vs. Stetson

    3:45 pm on 88.5-FM

  • St. Cloud State at Gophers men's hockey

    6 pm on FSN, 1500-AM

  • Timberwolves at Sacramento

    9 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Gophers women's hockey at MSU Mankato

    2:07 pm

  • Wisconsin at Gophers football

    2:30 pm on BTN, 100.3-FM

  • Gophers women's basketball vs. Auburn

    6 pm on 1500-AM

  • Dallas at Wild

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Vikings at Atlanta

    12 pm on Ch. 9, 100.3/1130

  • Timberwolves at L.A. Clippers

    2:30 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • St. Cloud State at Gophers men's hockey

    6:35 pm on FSN, 1500-AM

  • Clemson at Gophers men's basketball

    8 pm on ESPN2, 1500-AM

  • Wild at Chicago

    7 pm on NBCSN, 100.3-FM

  • Orlando at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Toronto at Wild

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

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