The Hawks erased a 34 point deficit to take a 107-106 lead over the Timberwolves with 3:33 to play on a Paul Millsap driving layup, but failed to score again in Monday night’s 117-107 loss at Philips Arena. Andrew Wiggins scored seven straight (on a career-high tying 33 point night) and Minnesota ended the game on an 11-0 run, dashing Atlanta’s hopes of pulling off the third-largest comeback in NBA history. The Hawks dropped to 7-2 and fell to second in the Eastern Conference behind the 6-1 Cavaliers, while Minnesota improved to 4-2.
The first half was about as ugly as it gets, with Tiago Splitter’s minus-3 a team best. Minnesota absolutely dismantled Atlanta’s defense, shooting 64% from the field (50% on 3-pointers) and doubling the Hawks’ 11 boards. The Timberwolves outscored Atlanta in the paint 36-20, 10-0 on second chance points and 21-2 on fast break points and the Hawks went to the locker room down 72-42.
Coach Mike Budenholzer let the starters begin the third quarter in hopes of chipping away at the 30 point deficit. Asked if he gave a big speech at halftime, Coach Bud said he simply made the decision to give the starting unit an opportunity to make a game of it in the third quarter.
“I told the guys lets give it five or eight minutes,” said Budenholzer. “Let’s see what happens. Different things happen in our league.”
Kyle Korver confirmed that Budenholzer was matter-of-fact about the situation in the halftime locker room.
“We’re down 30 points, we didn’t really need a talk,” said Korver. “He showed a couple of plays where we didn’t hustle and we didn’t get the job done. It’s just not coming out with the right sense of purpose. That’s something we’ll have to look at.”
After the Timberwolves stretched it to 34 in the first two minutes of the third, the Hawks finally woke up. Teague scored 14 points in the quarter (on 6-for-8 shooting), dished out seven assists and blocked two shots. Atlanta’s 32-8 extended run cut Minnesota’s lead to nine. The Hawks scored 42 points in the third (22 in the paint) by shooting 72% (5-for-7 from behind the arc) and forcing 10 turnovers, and they carried this momentum into the fourth.
Minnesota’s rookie Nemanja Bjelica fouled Al Horford with 10:48 to play and managed to get deep enough under his skin for Al to earn a technical for his part in the resulting heated exchange. Kevin Martin made his free throw to put the Timberwolves up by 10, but Horford hit both of his and Dennis Schröder’s 3-pointer had the Hawks within five.
Paul Millsap managed to tie the game for the first time since it was 2-2 when he made a layup (assisted by Teague) and capitalized on the and-1 opportunity when a foul was called on Karl-Anthony Towns. Wiggins missed his second free throw attempt after being fouled by Kent Bazemore, and with 3:33 to play, Millsap took the lead on a driving layup. The would-be comeback ended there, however, as Wiggins and the Timberwolves took over in the closing minutes.
For the game, the Hawks attempted only seven free throws, compared to 22 for the Timberwolves. With 1:18 to play and Minnesota back in front 113-107, Teague was so incensed by a non-call on Towns that he attempted to deliberatly foul Bjelica, striking him in the face. The officials ignored Teague’s act of frustration but it could be subject to review by the league office.
“You can’t spot a team 30 points and expect to win,” said Horford in the postgame locker room. “We got a lot of careless turnovers and it cost us. It is disappointing but we’re going to learn from this.”
Budenholzer praised his group for fighting back, but condemned the first-half effort that left them facing a huge deficit.
“I don’t want to not acknowledge or not recognize that it was a heck of an effort by the group to dig themselves out of that kind of hole,” said Budenholzer. “But I don’t think any of us feel good to be down 30. I don’t think the first half was acceptable … under any circumstances.”
Teague led the Hawks with 24 points and nine assists but committed six turnovers. Millsap added 22 points, five rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks. Horford had 14 points, six rebounds and three assists. Bazemore shot just 1-for-5 from 3-point range for nine points and committed five turnovers but added six rebounds, three assists and five steals. Schröder added 12 points and four assists off the bench while Thabo Sefolosha had 10 points and two steals.
Wiggins added five rebounds and four assists while Towns scored 17 points with 12 rebounds. Zach LaVine and Martin scored 13 each off the bench and the Timberwolves dominated the boards with a 40-27 rebound advantage.
The Hawks are back in action at Philips on Wednesday as they host the New Orleans Pelicans, whom they beat 121-115 on Nov. 6. The team then travels to Boston to face the Celtics on Friday.