Nikola Pekovic went for 25 & 18 and Andrei Kirilenko added 21 & 6 as the Minnesota Timberwolves survived a late scare to escape with their 16th win of the season.
These two teams met only one time last season. The game was in Atlanta and the TWolves were up 18 at the half. Unfortunately, Joe Johnson rallied his team and they were able to come back all the way, to hit a pair of clinching free throws with 4.6 seconds to play. Kevin Love missed a buzzer beater three that would've won the game and the Wolves went home losers 91-93.
Tonight the Wolves led by 16 at halftime and seemed to be cruising to an easy W and that was exactly what had me worried. I was getting a bit of deja vu and was VERY concerned that the Wolves would blow another big first half lead with their poor play in the second half.
It wasn't so much that the Wolves were playing poorly, it was just Atlanta hitting some tough shots and stringing together a couple of runs that ended up being key in the 5-point victory.
The Hawks cut the lead to a single point on a Lou Williams layup with just 1:07 to play. The Wolves answered on the ensuing possession with another bucket from the MIGHTY PEK to make it 104-101. The Hawks took a timeout and got a mid-range jumper from Al Horford to cut the lead to one-point, once again.
That's when Dante Cunningham decided to flex his 'clutch muscles'. Dante hit a 21-foot jumper on the following possession to push the lead to three, with just 15 seconds to play. The Hawks took a timeout. Out of the timeout, Josh Smith attempted an inbound pass to Al Horford in the post, that Dante swatted away to come up with his third steal on the night and ultimately seal a Wolves victory. Luke was intentionally fouled and hit both free throws to push the lead to five. Smith missed a three on the next possession and the Wolves walked away with the narrow W.
Before I get to tonight's 'top performers', I'd like to highlight Dante Cunningham. Dante's game tonight didn't show up as much in his statline. Dante finished the night with 6pts, 5reb, 1ast, 3stls and 3-of-9 FG. Not really a great game (statistically), however without Dante's two VERY clutch plays in the final minutes (that mid-range jumper and the steal) the Wolves are a game below .500 and not a game above!
A few misc. notes: Tonight marked the return of Anthony Tolliver to the Target Center. Tolli finished with 1 rebound in 5 minutes off the bench.......Head Coach Rick Adelman wasn't at tonight's game for personal reasons (in what they were calling a family emergency), Terry Porter was the acting head coach tonight and it remains to be seen whether Adelman will join the team in Oklahoma City tomorrow night......
Let's take a look at tonight's top performers....
N. Pekovic: 25pts, 18reb, 1ast, 1stl, 1to, 2fls, 9-15 FG, 7-8 FT in 35 min.
A. Kirilenko: 21pts, 6reb, 5ast, 7-11 FG, 2-2 3PT, 5-5 FT in 34 min.
D. Williams: 17pts, 1reb, 1ast, 1fl, 7-13 FG, 3-5 3PT in 21 bench minutes
J. Smith: 21pts, 13reb, 7ast, 1stl, 2blks, 4tos, 1fl, 8-14 FG, 2-4 3PT, 3-5 FT in 38 min.
L. Williams: 21pts, 4reb, 8ast, 3tos, 4fls, 6-15 FG, 1-4 3PT, 8-9 FT in 43 min.
A. Horford: 19pts, 11reb, 4ast, 2stls, 1blk, 3tos, 2fls, 9-16 FG, 1-1 FT in 38 min.
All three of the players listed on Atlanta's side are honestly three guys that I'd love to have on our team. All three of those guys play hard and are three of the better players at their position. Lou Williams was someone I hoped the Wolves would target in free agency this summer. They weren't interested and he ended up signing with his hometown Atlanta Hawks. With the Wolves in search of trading for another big man, I wouldn't be against a trade for Josh Smith--that'd take a lot of the better players on this roster: Pekovic & Williams for sure, among a number of others.
MISC. STATS: Dante's three steals ties a season-high........Nikola Pekovic's 12 defensive rebounds is a new season-high and his 18 total rebounds is a new season/career-high.......Luke Ridnour's 2 offensive rebounds ties a season-high........Ricky Rubio's 4 steals is a season-high (his career-high is 6 which he got twice last season).......Alexey Shved's 2 steals ties a season-high (the eighth time he's had two steals in one game).........Derrick Williams had a good night from deep, his 3 made threes and 5 attempted threes, both tie season-highs.......
Fast Break PTS
PTS in the Paint
Team TO's (PTS off)
MISC. STATS: Minnesota's 53.3% from deep is a new season-high, their 29 assists ties the second-best mark of the season........The Wolves' 10 turnovers ties a season-low for the year.......The Hawks' 77 field goal attempts ties a season-low for Minnesota opponent this season......
That's all for now, the Wolves are back in action tomorrow night vs. the Thunder in Oklahoma City. A full gameday preview of that one can be found on this site tomorrow afternoon, until then, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!