After getting off to such a fast start, the Atlanta Hawks are struggling offensively and in the paint. Making matters worse, they now have to contend with Minnesota's thriving inside game featuring Michael Beasley and Kevin Love, who is coming off a sensational performance.
The Hawks try to avoid losing five straight for the first time in more than 2 1/2 years Sunday when they host a Timberwolves team seeking a third win in a row.
Atlanta (6-4) became the Eastern Conference's last team to lose with a 118-114 defeat to Phoenix last Sunday. Though the Hawks were able to keep up with the fast-paced Suns, their offense has since cooled off.
After averaging 106.1 points in their first seven games, the Hawks are averaging 88.7 in the last three. They've been outscored by an average of 4.6 points in the paint and outrebounded by an average of 3.6 boards.
That doesn't bode well considering Love and the Timberwolves (3-7) are coming to town.
Love has been instrumental to Minnesota averaging a league-best 49.2 rebounds, and he grabbed a franchise-record 31 boards while scoring 31 points Friday in a 112-103 win over New York. It was the NBA's first 30-30 game since Moses Malone in 1982.
"Kevin had an incredible game," coach Kurt Rambis said. "Those numbers are just stupid."
Beasley, Minnesota's other emerging third-year forward, also helped carry the team against the Knicks, finishing with 35 points and six rebounds. The 6-foot-10 forward was coming off a career-high 42 points in Wednesday's 98-89 victory at Sacramento, the Wolves' first road win in 18 games.
The Hawks have lost their last three home games and are on the verge of their first five-game losing streak overall since dropping six in a row from Feb. 8-20, 2008.
It appeared Atlanta was going to snap its skid Friday against Utah but conceded an 11-point, fourth-quarter lead and lost 90-86. Mike Bibby finished with two points and is averaging 6.0 in the last three contests after averaging 12.1 points to start the season.
The Hawks, who finished with a season low in points against the Jazz, missed 10 of 21 free throws and allowed their opponent to reach double digits in offensive rebounds for a seventh consecutive game.
"The combination of not making free throws and giving up 15 offensive rebounds to a good team is not going to get you a win," coach Larry Drew said.
While Atlanta was blowing a double-digit lead Friday, Minnesota came back from 21 down in the third quarter to win. Love had 11 points and 15 boards in the third, and the Wolves went on a 33-9 run bridging the third and fourth quarters.
"I just got a good mindset that every single one was mine," said Love, who had 23 points and 24 rebounds in a loss to the Lakers on Tuesday. "It seemed like no matter what anybody did I was going to go and get those rebounds."
Love is averaging 12.6 rebounds and 17.0 points in five career games against the Hawks - his second-best scoring output against any opponent - but that hasn't led to any victories.
The Wolves have been outscored by an average of 10.3 points in losing the last nine in the series, and they've dropped seven straight in Atlanta since a 103-93 win in 2002.
Atlanta, though, is at risk of losing four consecutive home games for the first time since March 21-April 1, 2007. The Hawks were 34-7 at Philips Arena last season and didn't suffer their fourth loss there until Jan. 1.