The Timberwolves entered the Monday afternoon contest against the Atlanta Hawks trying to continue the success they had against the Houston Rockets on Saturday, and the Hawks were hoping to snap out of their recent rough patch. Minnesota (17-20) would have Dante Cunningham back in the lineup, even though he was still trying to recover from the flu. The Hawks (22-18) had Jannero Pargo in their line up for the first time this season, after having just signed with the Hawks.
The Wolves would start the same 5 for the 2nd consecutive game, Stiemsma, Williams, Kirilenko, Rudnour and Rubio. The Hawks countered with Zaza Pachulia, Al Horford, Josh Smith, John Jenkins and Jeff Teague. The Hawks early on were not going to let the Wolves beat them inside, they were almost daring them to shot outside, and for the Wolves it paid off. They managed to shot 50% from the floor and opened up a 31-18 lead 1st quarter lead. The 31 points given up by the Hawks was the most they allowed in the 1st quarter all season. The Wolves were consistently hit an outside jump shot, and it completely changed the complexion of the game. Derrick Williams started off the game with 9 points in the 1st quarter and was once again looking as if he may have one of the “breakout” type of games.
With a slim bench Terry Porter started the 2nd quarter with a lineup of Chris Johnson, Lou, Cunningham, Gelebale and JJ. The Wolves bench again played with energy and effort. The thing that was allowing the Hawks to stay in the game was the same thing that killed the Wolves against Houston, offensive rebounding. The newly acquired players of Johnson and Gelebale were helping contribute to an effort that was offsetting the Hawks offensive rebounding. Gelebale had 7 points in 6 minutes while Johnson was hitting jump shots and dunking like he’s been in the league for a while. Most importantly was the Wolves ability to force the Hawks into turnovers, and their own ball movement. The Wolves had 18 assist on 22 fg’s in the 1st half. The Wolves managed to open the lead all the way up to 18 at one point in the 2nd quarter, and took a 14 point lead into halftime.
When the Wolves move the ball, they have proven all season they get good looks at the basket, which leads to great team defense; this game was no different in the 1st half. Good ball movement, defense that forced turnovers, hustle and energy. All of it put together and the Wolves had a 14 point lead. They forced 12 turnovers which led to 15 points, the Wolves shot 55% in the 1st half and Derrick Williams shot 60% for 13 points.
The Wolves started the 3rd quarter with the same 5 they started the game with, while the Hawks put Kyle Korver, and Mike Scott in the 2nd half starting lineup. Great 2nd half adjustments allowed the Hawks to go on a 10-0 run to narrow the Wolves lead to 4 with only 1:28 gone in the 3rd quarter. That personnel change for the Hawks to start the 3rd completely changed the game. Korver’s ability to hit an outside shot forced the defense to respect the outside game, and gave Atlanta good looks inside or open cuts to the hoop for easy layups. Once the Hawks started making shots, the Wolves were forced to play half court sets, and settle for jump shots. The shooting percentage for the Wolves went back down as did their lead. The Hawks were 10-12 with 4:30 left in the 3rd quarter to get the lead all the way to 2, 69-67. The Wolves puzzleingly left Luke, Kirilenko and Stiemsma on the floor for almost the entire 3rd quarter. The Wolves energy was drained, until they finally brought in Cunningham, which sparked an 8-0 run to take a 77-70 lead into the 4th and final quarter.
Johnson, Williams, Cunningham, Gelebale and JJ started the 4th quarter and managed to maintain a 5 point 85-80 lead with 8:26 to play, when Stiemsma checked back into the game. JJ Berea managed to make 2 defensive mistakes on the next 2 possessions allowing Pargo to knock down 2 big shots for Atlanta, and make it an 89-87 Wolves lead with 6:30 to play. It may have been the 2 bad defensive possessions that led to JJ to these next 3 offensive possessions: missed jump shot, turnover bad pass and bad isolation drive, spin, fade away jump shot that missed. Those 3 consecutive possessions with no points for the Wolves, allowed the Hawks to convert on 2 of the possessions and take a 92-89 lead. The Hawks felt like all of the momentum was going their way until, the Wolves managed to get a huge 4 point play from AK with 3:43 left to play. The proverbial nail in the coffin was a big 3 point basket by Pargo on the next possession, and then a Wolves turnover that led to flagrant foul call on Cunningham. In review, it was a hard fall by Jeff Teague that got the call. Cunningham made a play on the ball, and it was no way “unnecessary contact committed by a player against an opponent.” The Wolves continued to lose energy down the stretch, and the fatigue showed as the Wolves couldn’t hit from the outside and were never able to get the game any closer than 5 points, and fell to the Hawks by a final score of 104 -96.
The Wolves substitution patterns have been perplexing over this stretch without Adelman. Johnson and Gelebale were a combined 5-5 for 11 points and extended minutes by the starters showed down the stretch.
After such a solid 1st half, Derrick Williams again completely disappeared in the 2nd half and finish with 17 points for a -16 +/- on the night.
All of the minutes for Luke may finally be catching up; he was 5-13 for 12 points, 3 turnovers, and 2 assists.
After shooting 55% in the 1st half, the Wolves finished shooting 48.6% for the game.
The Wolves only had 6 assists in the 2nd half. They had 18 in the 1st.
The Wolves (17-21) will return home to take on the Brooklyn Nets (23-18) Wednesday with a 7 o’clock tip.