ATLANTA, Jan. 5 (Ticker) -- The Atlanta Hawks have problems at both ends of the court and have been unable to fix either one.

The Hawks continued to shoot poorly and defend even worse in a 112-96 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, who rode a big game by Kevin Garnett to their fourth straight victory.

Since late November, the Hawks have had trouble stopping foes and outscoring them. Over their last 17 games, they have given up just under 103 points per contest and are last in the NBA in points allowed.

"Defensively, we've got a lot of concerns," Atlanta coach Lon Kruger said. "We're not stopping people, we're not blocking shots, we're not changing shots. It's a concern. We've got to keep working at it."

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Wally Szczerbiak led six Wolves in double figures, and has really raised the level of his game lately.
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"Our defense has to step up," guard Jason Terry said. "Defensively, we have not been getting stops when we needed them. You're not going to win games like that."

Part of the problem has been the injuries to frontcourt players Theo Ratliff and Alan Henderson, who would help fortify the interior.

"We're working on it," forward Toni Kukoc said. "With Theo and Al Henderson, I think we'll be more athletic and bigger. It will make it harder for teams to get points down low. I think our perimeter defense is pretty solid. We just need more bodies down low."

"They also didn't have much of a shot blocker, so we were able to go down low," Minnesota guard Wally Szczerbiak said.

During its funk, Atlanta has struggled from the field, failing to shoot better than 50 percent in 19 straight games. It shot 45 percent (36-of-80) in this one.

"I think we had a tough time inside finishing," said forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim, the Hawks' leading scorer. "They have some guys that when you penetrate, you have to be aware of them."

The Hawks usually battle opponents to a virtual stand still on the backboards but were outrebounded by Minnesota, 56-34. They never led in the second half and lost for the 12th time in 19 games.

"A big difference was obviously on the boards," Kruger said. "It was something we couldn't overcome."

Garnett just missed a triple-double with 22 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists. The South Carolina native had nearly 40 friends and family on hand as he led the Timberwolves to their fourth straight win over the Hawks.

"We just have to carry it over, playing top-notch basketball," Garnett said. "That's why I make this team understand, `Hey, we have this record for a reason, let's stick with our structure. Let's stick with the system that we have and go with it.'"

Szczerbiak scored 23 points, Chauncey Billups added 18 and Gary Trent 14 for Minnesota, which shot 49 percent (40-of-82), and had six players score in double figures. Szczerbiak and Trent had nine rebounds each.

Abdur-Rahim scored 20 points, Kukoc added 18 and Terry 16 for the Hawks.

"I feel like we lost in a big-time effort way," Abdur-Rahim said. "We're not going to be able to win consistently like that. I think we're capable of doing what we need to do to win games, but we need to do it consistently."

Kukoc's 3-pointer gave Atlanta a 41-34 lead with 7:24 to play in the second period, but Minnesota closed the quarter with a 20-9 surge featuring six points by Szczerbiak.

Leading 54-50 at halftime, the Wolves began the third quarter with a 13-5 surge. Trent scored eight points, including a layup that made it 67-55 with 7:59 remaining.

The Hawks trailed 87-77 entering the final period but closed to 93-87 on Kukoc's 3-pointer with 8:04 to go. Garnett and Billups scored four points each in an 8-2 run, opening a 101-89 bulge with 4:12 left.

"We didn't have great energy to start with," Wolves coach Flip Saunders said. "I thought we came in and played more meat-and-potato basketball. Our defense got solid in the second half and we played some zone, which helped."

Felipe Lopez scored 11 points and fellow reserve Anthony Peeler added 10 for the Wolves. Dion Glover and Hanno Mottola scored 10 points each for the Hawks.