Pekovic powers Wolves over Hawks
MINNEAPOLIS — Nikola Pekovic had 25 points and a career-high 18 rebounds, Andrei Kirilenko added 21 points and the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Atlanta Hawks 108-103 on Tuesday night.
Derrick Williams scored 17 points and Alexey Shved had 15 for the Timberwolves, who were missing coach Rick Adelman due to personal reasons. Terry Porter filled in and led the Wolves to their first victory over Atlanta since 2006, snapping an 11-game skid.
Josh Smith had 21 points and 13 rebounds and Al Horford had 19 points and 11 boards for the Hawks, who have lost three straight and four of their last five. They lost for the first time this year when Smith and Horford each get a double-double.
Minnesota point guard Ricky Rubio had eight assists and four points in 18 minutes in his first game back after missing the previous four with back spasms.
Lou Williams finished with 21 points and eight assists for the Hawks, who had a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds. But Dante Cunningham stole the inbounds pass and Luke Ridnour knocked down two free throws to seal the win.
The Timberwolves led by 14 to start the fourth quarter, with the Hawks showing few signs of getting back into the game. But Lou Williams scored seven quick points and Horford backed Derrick Williams down for a short jumper to trim the deficit to four with six minutes to play.
Kirilenko hit two 3s for a 100-89 lead with 4:15 remaining, but Kyle Korver hit two 3s and Lou Williams scored on a driving layup during a 12-2 surge that brought Atlanta within one. Korver finished with 15 points.
Pekovic was given a basket on a goaltending violation by Smith and Cunningham hit a 21-foot jumper with 15.9 seconds left to hold off the Hawks.
The Wolves have been the worst 3-point shooting team in the league virtually all season, but they hit 8 of 15 against the Hawks to get a big win before a four-game road trip.
While the Heat and Knicks grabbed all the headlines in the first two months of the season, the Hawks quietly put together a solid start that kept them right on their heels. They won 19 of their first 28 games, beating the likes of Oklahoma City, Indiana (twice), the Clippers and Memphis along the way to legitimize their standing as a contender in the East. But they lost at Detroit and home against Boston in a back-to-back last weekend, scoring just nine points in the third quarter against the Celtics.
Coach Larry Drew said he thought his team panicked for the first time all season, then watched it struggle to keep up with Minnesota’s crisp ball movement and Derrick Williams’ shot-making in the first half. The second-year forward has never been in Adelman’s good graces, and his playing time has been sporadic, with the veteran coach favoring the more consistent Cunningham.
With Kevin Love out with a broken hand, Williams scored 18 points in the fourth quarter of a loss to Portland on Saturday night, then hit three of four 3-pointers in the first half to help the Wolves take a 17-point lead.
Notes: Porter interviewed for an assistant position on Drew’s staff when he was hired in Atlanta. How’d that go? “I didn’t get it,” Porter said with a chuckle. ... The Timberwolves played host to 16-year-old Cody Metz as part of the Make-A-Wish program. Metz is a devoted fan who has suffered from numerous complications following surgery on a brain tumor five years ago. Metz watched the game from a suite and planned to accompany the team on a road trip to Oklahoma City. “This definitely gives me something to look forward to,” Metz said. “I’m really excited.”