The Minnesota Timberwolves absolutely dominated the first two quarters of action. They built a solid 18-point lead and were up 14 at halftime.
Unfortunately we had YET ANOTHER second half letdown as the Wolves were outscored 38-60 in the final two quarters for an 8-point loss and their 10th straight loss IN Atlanta.
Minnesota got off to a strong start thanks to an unlikely trio of players. Williams had 9pts, 2reb, 1blk; Stiemsma added 8pts, 3reb, 1ast, 1blk and Luke Ridnour contributed 7pts, 1reb, 2ast, 1stl.
Both teams were 'shorthanded' in this one. However, it's unfair to compare the two teams when it comes to injuries. They're without Lou Williams, Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow and DeShawn Stevenson, but still have their two best players are still on the court: Smith & Horford. Whereas the Wolves are without their two best players: Love & Pekovic, while also missing Roy, Lee, Budinger and Shved.
The Wolves took advantage of a number of early turnovers by Atlanta and also got Ivan Johnson (3) and Josh Smith (2) into early foul trouble. Minnesota hit a high percentage of their shots, while also limiting the effectiveness of the Atlanta bigs (a HUGE advantage for ATL in this one).
In the second quarter the Wolves got steady contributions from a number of players, headlined by Mickael Gelable who scored all 7 of his points in that second quarter. The Hawks played this one closer as they looked to take advantage of their muscle in the post, he scored 10 of his 28 in that second quarter...and unfortunately he wasn't done there.
Minnesota took a 14-point lead into halftime and did so with efficient shooting from the field and capitalizing on a lot of Atlanta turnovers. The Wolves shot 55% from the field and forced the Hawks into 12 turnovers that they turned into 15 points.
If you recall the lone matchup between these two teams last season, it was an eerily similar situation. The Wolves were playing in Atlanta and built an early lead, just to blow it in the final quarter. That game was a bit closer, with the Wolves losing it in the final five seconds on a pair of Ivan Johnson free throws, followed by a missed Love three that would've sealed a W.
The Hawks came out of halftime and promptly scored 8 straight points, cutting the lead to 6 and forcing Porter to burn a timeout. It didn't help much as the Hawks continue to pour it in as they finished the third quarter outscoring Minnesota 26-19. Horford continued his dominance in the paint with 7 more points and Kyle Korver got things going in that third quarter where he drained a number of threes and scored 11 of his 14 points.
With a 7-point lead heading into the final quarter, it looked as though the Wolves may be able to sneak out of ATL with the win. Unfortunately Jannero Pargo, Al Horford and Ivan Johnson had other plans. The Hawks signed Pargo to a 10-day contract earlier today and apparently some of Minnesota's Saturday night magic rubbed off on him, giving the Hawks a "10-day Hero" of their own. Pargo scored 14 of his 16 points in that final quarter, that included 4 made threes as he helped the Hawks run away with this one. They also didn't stop going to Horford as he added another 7 points off that advantage in the post and Ivan Johnson got in on the fun with 6 of his 8 in the fourth.
There were a number of problems tonight. However, none more glaring than Terry Porter's rotations and the plays the Wolves are running. Minnesota's offense is based a lot on the pick-and-roll and it always seems to work VERY well, but tonight it seemed as though every play was J.J. Barea or Luke Ridnour waiting for a high screen, by the time they'd get the pick set the clock would be down under 5 seconds and they'd have to fling up yet another bad shot and still they kept going back to it, despite it working about 1 in every 3 tries. I suppose with Pekovic out, the Wolves really don't have too many other sets to run as Nikola is clearly a HUGE part of the offense.
As far as Porter's rotations...I struggle to understand them. For the first five minutes of the third quarter Kyle Korver consistently burnt Luke Ridnour and found himself with wide open threes. Instead of maybe bringing in Gelabale to 'stop the bleeding' Porter let them play on. Then, in the final quarter no one could stop Jannero Pargo and yet Porter kept Luke out there guarding him, he finally brought Ricky back into the game with just a few minutes to play, but by then it should've been Barea he brought back because Ricky can't hit a shot. I know I'm not the only one that hopes Rick is back on the sidelines VERY soon!
The Wolves have now lost six of their last seven games. They'll face the Nets who they beat earlier this season (as they came back from 23 down) which will be a tough game. Then they'll face two of the East's worst teams in Charlotte & Washington, before ending the month with another matchup vs. the Clippers. If they can win 3 of 4, they'll carry some momentum into February.
Let's take a look at today's top performers...
Williams got off to a hot start in that first quarter, but was very ineffective in the final two quarters, tallying 2 points apiece in the third and fourth quarters. He had a good night on O, however scoring 17 on 14 tries and shooting 50% from the field in a season-high (tying) 37 minutes.
J.J. had a number of good plays and to be honest I was surprised when I looked at the box score and saw he finished with 7 assists, because watching the game, he looked kind of selfish with the ball out there. Nonetheless he was effective and had a number of very difficult layups he converted.
Dante was sick on Saturday and was still looking a little 'lousy' prior to tonight's tip (according to reporters) and yet he had another great all-around game. He found that mid-range shot again as he hit 60% of his tries, while also making things happen on the defensive end, finishing with 2stls and 2blks, but only 1 foul.
Horford must've been thrilled to hear Pekovic wouldn't be playing tonight after Pek dominated the Hawks in the paint in their last meeting. Tonight, with Greg Stiemsma guarding him Al went to work and contributed big numbers in every quarter, including 14 in the second half to carry his team on a night when Josh Smith finished with just 10pts.
Smith doesn't need to score much, when reserves Korver & Pargo ignite in the second half like they did. Between the two of them, they made 7 of Atlanta's 10 made threes and took 11 of the 16 total attempts. Former Wolf Tolliver also nailed 2 of his own (2-for-2).
MISC. STATS: Amundson tied a season-high with his 1 assist.....Barea tied season-highs with 2 offensive rebounds (5th time this season) and 2 steals (3rd time this season).....Ridnour's 2 offensive rebounds also ties a season-high (for the 3rd time this season).....Stiemsma played a season-high 28 minutes (one minute away from tying his career-high) and also tied a season-high (for the 3rd time) with his 7 field goal attempts.....Derrick Williams tied a season-high with his 37 minutes played.....
KEY STATS: Both teams shot high percentages in this one, but when the opposition hits 58% from the field and 63% from deep and you struggle in the final quarter to hit shots. Surprisingly neither team had too many rebounds with just 62 between the two teams. The Wolves had just 7 turnovers for 6 Atlanta points, which of course means Minnesota turned the ball over 13 times for 20 Atlanta points in the second half. A big key in that second half collapse.
MISC. STATS: The Wolves set new season-lows in defensive rebounds (20) and total rebounds (30).....The Hawks' 22 turnovers are a new season-high for a MIN opponent. Their 57.7% FG, 62.5% 3PT and 32 assists are all the 'second-highest' totals for a Wolves opponent this season.....The Hawks' 71 field goal attempts are a new season-low for a TWolves opponent.....
That's all for now, the Wolves are back in action on Wednesday night vs. the Brooklyn Nets back at the Target Center. Thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!