The Minnesota Timberwolves led big early but Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks used a huge third quarter to overtake the Wolves.
Timberwolves lose in bizarre fashion to the Hawks as Trae Young goes off
The Timberwolves came to Atlanta after winning a tightly-contested game in New York the night before. Despite being relatively healthy, this promised to be a tough test against a rested Atlanta Hawks team playing at home.
Early on, however, it was all Minnesota. The Timberwolves hung 41 points on the Hawks in the first quarter as D’Angelo Russell orchestrated a symphony of 3-pointers and dunks and the Wolves defense did its job. The Wolves were up by 16 points heading to the second frame.
The second quarter saw the Hawks find their footing just a bit, and the Wolves took their foot off the gas on both ends of the floor. Still, the visitors closed the quarter strong and still led by 12 points at the break.
After being held to just seven points in the first half — all in the second quarter — Trae Young started the third quarter with a bang, draining a 3-pointer on the Hawks’ first possession. It was on from there, with Young scoring 20 in the quarter and completely dominating whichever defender the Wolves opted to attempt and slow him down with.
At the same time, Anthony Edwards was ejected after a volcanic reaction to a non-call at the rim. It was a shame, as the second-year guard had 20 points in only 24 minutes in his return to his hometown.
At the end of the quarte,r the Wolves appeared to have cut the Atlanta lead to eight points on a Dirk Nowitzki-esque fall-away jumper from Towns. Upon further review (which was apparently triggered by the last-second shot, even though the ball was released with 1.1 on the clock — go figure), the officials determined that Towns had kicked Hawks defender Onyeka Okongwu during the shot, meaning that a flagrant foul would be called and the shot wouldn’t count.
Oh, and Towns had been called for a technical foul for taunting after staring down at Okongwu following the shot. Yes, the shot that no longer counted, if you’re scoring at home. Additionally, the foul was Towns’ fifth of the game.
It was absurd, of course, but it was also a five-point swing that gave the Hawks a 13-point lead by the time the fourth quarter actually began.
At that point, the damage had been done. Patrick Beverley was already out for the game after twisting his ankle just six minutes into the first quarter, and with Edwards ejected and Towns saddled with five fouls, the Wolves struggled to muster much resistance in the fourth quarter.
To their credit, Minnesota did battle back to within six points with just over two minutes to play, but it wasn’t enough.
Player grades from Timberwolves’ road loss to the Hawks
Let’s take a look at a few player grades from the Timberwolves’ loss to the Hawks.
Karl-Anthony Towns: B
17 points (6-13 FG, 1-5 3P, 4-6 FT), 10 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, one block
Karl-Anthony Towns played well overall, threatening a triple-double until he ended up on the bench with foul trouble.
The Hawks chose to not double-team him, which led to a few easy buckets over and around John Collins and Okongwu in the post. But as the game wore on, the Wolves went away from post touches for Towns, and as the Hawks extended their lead due to Young’s hot hand in the third quarter, the Wolves resorted to trying to fight fire with fire by firing away from beyond the arc.
D’Angelo Russell: B+
31 points (10-18 FG, 5-13 3P, 6-9 FT), 5 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, one block
Russell was fantastic on offense. If we were only grading his play on that end of the floor, the answer here would be an easy ‘A’.
But defense matters, and Russell was one of the primary culprits when it came to shoddy point-of-attack coverage for the Wolves. He wasn’t alone in this shortcoming, of course, but he did play 35 minutes and was clearly at fault for some of the issues.
Still, the offensive burst from Russell early in the game was nothing short of impressive. He controlled the game in the pick-and-roll once again and continues to shoot the ball better and better with each passing game.
Anthony Edwards: B
20 points (7-16 FG, 4-10 3P, 2-2 FT), 5 rebounds
This is a tough grade to hand out. On the one hand, Edwards was electric through two-and-a-half quarters, dropping 20 points on a variety of impressive moves, including forays to the rim and beautiful step-back threes.
But he found himself ejected after just 24 minutes played and wasn’t on the court as the Hawks finished their comeback by extending their lead to double digits in short order. The Wolves needed his length on the perimeter and his scoring edge, and Edwards took himself off the court with his actions in the third quarter.
Jaden McDaniels: D
4 points (2-5 FG), one rebound, one steal, one turnover
This was a rough game for McDaniels. In 17 minutes, he was practically invisible, outside of being beat off the dribble by Young. McDaniels didn’t attempt a single 3-pointer on offense and only managed a single rebound.
Not the finest showing for the second-year forward, to say the least.
The Wolves have the next three days off as they return home to prepare for the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday night.