Wolves overpower Hawks
MINNEAPOLIS — After three consecutive losses that left star forward Kevin Love visibly down and distracted Monday night in Memphis, Minnesota Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman delivered a positive message before Wednesday’s game.
He asked his team to play for pride and professionalism the rest of the way even if the playoffs now are all but out of the question. The result was a 107-83 victory over the Atlanta Hawks at Target Center.
The Timberwolves ended their losing streak while handing the Hawks a fourth consecutive loss.
Minnesota (35-35) pushed a seven-point halftime lead to as many as 28 points in the fourth quarter. Guard Kevin Martin and forward Corey Brewer scored 18 points each for the Timberwolves, and rookie center Gorgui Dieng delivered his fifth double-double in six NBA career starts with a 15-point, 15-rebound game.
Love contributed 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Forward Mike Scott led the Hawks (31-39) with 15 points, and forward Paul Millsap added 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Wednesday’s victory followed losses to the Houston Rockets, Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies in which the Wolves allowed 129, 127 and 109 points, crushing Minnesota’s playoff hopes.
Still, with 12 games left in their season, Adelman told his players there is plenty left to play for.
“There’s a privilege to play in this league,” Adelman told reporters before Wednesday’s game. “We had a season where we’ve had some disappointment. We never cashed out. We kept playing. We responded. They have pride in themselves and the team, and there’s no reason to even think anything else.”
The Wolves led 20-19 after one quarter before they started the second quarter with a 21-11 run that built an 11-point lead with fewer than five minutes left before halftime.
The Hawks pulled within five points before the half’s end, trailed 48-41 at halftime and twice got as close as three points early in the third quarter.
The Wolves pushed back and scored the next seven points unanswered to regain a double-digit lead. They pushed the margin to as many as 17 points by late in the third quarter.
Martin scored nine points in the third, and Love added eight.
Notes: Wolves PG Ricky Rubio went to the locker room midway through the first quarter and returned just before halftime after needing 15 stitches to close a laceration in his upper lip. He kicked over two chairs on his way to the locker room, upset that he was called for a blocking foul rather than getting a charge call on an Atlanta player after taking that hit. ... Wolves C Nikola Pekovic missed his sixth consecutive game because of a sore right ankle. Coach Rick Adelman said Pekovic is doing more court work and intends to play this weekend, which means either Friday at home against the Los Angeles Lakers or Sunday at the Brooklyn Nets. ... Wolves backup PG J.J. Barea played Wednesday after he missed Monday’s game at Memphis because of a sprained foot. ... Hawks swingman Kyle Korver missed his fourth consecutive game because of back spasms. Atlanta C Al Horford, F Gustavo Ayon and G John Jenkins all remain out for the season. ... Hawks rookie C Mike Muscala, signed in late February after he started the season in Spain, returned home to Minnesota on Wednesday. He played at nearby Roseville, Minn., High School.