GameDay Blog: Wolves vs. Hawks - Jan. 8, 2013

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Final: The Wolves pulled out the 108-103 win over the Hawks tonight thanks to a big jumper by Cunningham that extended the lead to three with seconds remaining, and then DC came up with a steal on the inbound that set up the game-icing free throws by Luke Ridnour. We've got postgame analysis, highlights, photos and interviews coming up. Check back with Timberwolves.com all night for updates. MIN 108, ATL 103

Q4 15.9: Twice in the last minute the Hawks have cut the lead to one point, once on a Lou Williams drive and another on an Al Horford lay-up. But each time the Wolves responded, first with a goal tend call credited to Nikola Pekovic and then with one of Dante Cunningham's patented jumpers from just inside the arc. MIN 106, ATL 103

Q4 2:40: The Hawks continue to hang around here. A Kyle Korver 3-pointer makes it a six-point game with 2:40 left. One career milestone to note here is Nikola Pekovic now has a career-high 18 rebounds to go along with his 23 points. MIN 100, ATL 94

Q4 9:50: More efficiency out of Derrick Williams tonight. He's got 15 points in 16 minutes, and he's currently 6-of-10 from the field including 3-of-4 from distance. We keep talking to D-Will about confidence and being able to get into a rhythm thanks to extra minutes, and he's certainly making good on that right now. As we move along here in the fourth, the Wolves are going back to a three guard set with Rubio, Barea and Shved. They went to this rotation during the second quarter as well, and for the time being they're going small again. MIN 87, ATL 77

End Q3: Our good friend Anthony Tolliver got a nice round of applause from Wolves fans when he was introduced moments ago. He entered the game at Target Center for the first time since leaving for Atlanta this offseason. Really good dude, so nice to see the Wolves fans give him a nice cheer. Meanwhile, the Wolves lead by 14 heading into the fourth. The Wolves continue to be efficient from 3-point range, shooting 6-of-10 on the night. They've got a 44-26 points in the paint advantage and are leading second chance points 23-16 after 3. MIN 85, ATL 71

Q3 2:18: Alexey Shved is doing some work right now for the Wolves. He's got 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting and has connected on 2-of-3 from the perimeter. Shved just connected on a 3-pointer and followed it up on the next possession with a transition jam and the foul. He missed the free throw, but he's been active this quarter and has helped Minnesota extend its lead back up to 12. MIN 79, ATL 67

Q3 5:53: Atlanta is making their run right now, and this is a pivotal juncture for the Wolves to respond. The Wolves led by 16 at halftime, but after six minutes here in the third the Hawks are on a 18-10 run and have cut the lead to eight. Minnesota is sticking with their starters so far this quarter, but it was their bench led by Rubio and Barea that provided the spark in the first half. Rubio has played 10 minutes so far, so I'm assuming we'll see a healthy dose of Ricky in the fourth. MIN 68, ATL 60

Halftime: Nice inbound pass and score from Kirilenko to Pekovic at the end of the half that sends the Wolves into the locker room with a 58-42 lead. Really nice first half on both ends of the floor for Minnesota. They wanted to make it a half-court game and not let the Hawks get out and running, but they also wanted to be able to stay neutral or better in the 3-point department. They've done both as Atlanta has just seven fast-break points and they're 3-of-10 from 3-point land. Meanwhile, Minnesota is 5-of-8. MIN 58, ATL 42

Q2 2:42: Two pretty nice advantages for the Wolves in the points in the paint department and the second chance point area. The Wolves are leading points in the paint by a 30-12 advantage, and they've got a commanding 17-4 lead in second chance points. A lot of that has to do with their 24-14 rebounding advantage tonight led by Pek with 8 and DC and Ridnour with 4 apiece. MIN 52, ATL 38

Q2 5:35: Two really good signs so far tonight for the Wolves. Ricky Rubio has seven assists in 10 minutes of play, and Derrick Williams has 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting, including three 3-pointers. MIN 49, ATL 34

Q2 9:33: We had a little Ricky Rubio magic moments ago. After Rubio tossed a turnover on an alley-oop attempt to Derrick Williams, Rubio came up with a steal and hit a wide open J.J. Barea for a 3-pointer on the wing that pushed the Wolves' lead to 15. MIN 39, ATL 25

End Q1: The Wolves lead by 10 heading into the second thanks to a big first quarter by Nikola Pekovic (10 points, 8 rebounds), who has really pounded the paint and helped Minnesota put together an 18-8 points in the paint advantage so far tonight. Meanwhile, Andrei Kirilenko has eight points and picked up his 2,000th assist. Derrick Williams really added the late punch, however, with two straight 3-pointers near the end of the first. He's 2-of-3 from distance tonight in seven minutes. Nice to see him hitting those shots early tonight. MIN 30, ATL 20

Q1 2:56: Wolves guard Ricky Rubio just checked into the game for the first time since Dec. 26 against the Houston Rockets. He's missed four games with back spasms. He just checked in for Alexey Shved and filled out the back court with Luke Ridnour. The Wolves are holding onto a 16-8 points in the paint advantage right now, and they've kept this game from getting into a track meet type situation. Only four fast break points for both teams combined so far tonight (4-0 Hawks). MIN 22, ATL 16

Q1 5:38: Nice start for the Timberwolves offensively tonight. They're shooting 53.8 percent on 7-of-13 shooting to start the game. Nikola Pekovic is the main offensive force so far. He's 3-of-4 shooting with six points and already has four rebounds. Meanwhile, all four other starters have two points. Dante Cunningham has three rebounds to go along with Pek's four. The Hawks are shooting 5-of-13 as a team tonight. Meanwhile, Andrei Kirilenko has two assists tonight and now had 2,001 for his career. MIN 14, ATL 11

Starters:

Hawks: PG-Jeff Teague, SG-Lou Williams, SF-Kyle Korver, PF-Josh Smith, C-Al Horford
Wolves: PG-Luke Ridnour, SG-Alexey Shved, SF-Andrei Kirilenko, PF-Dante Cunningham, C-Nikola Pekovic

Pregame 6:25 PM: Assistant coach Terry Porter will step in for Rick Adelman as acting head coach as Adelman will miss tonight's game due to personal reasons. He said the biggest thing when step in for a head coach is to make sure there aren't too many changes. Keeping the game plan and the structure of game day the same is key.

"You try to stay consistent as possible," he said. "Sometimes with our roster that changes, you aren't able to have the same rotation at times. But overall you're not trying to do anything the guys aren't accustom to. You don't want to throw in a wrinkle."

Porter stepped in for Adelman in Dec. 2011 against the Milwaukee Bucks when Adelman missed the contest due to personal reasons, and he has previous head coaching stints with Phoenix and Milwaukee. Adelman's tree of coaches is very heavy on delegation and mutual input, so making this transition for the game tonight should be pretty seamless for Porter and the rest of the staff.

In other news, Porter said he wasn't sure what type of minutes count will be put on Ricky Rubio in his return tonight. Rubio has missed four games with back spasms, and when he made his initial return from knee surgery earlier this year he was on about an 18-minute count. It's not confirmed, but with his conditioning likely affected while missing time due to the back spasms, he will likely have something along those lines again tonight.

Pregame 6:00 PM: Just met with Cody Metz, a 16-year-old from Lakeville who is at the Wolves game tonight through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Cody is diagnosed with pilocytic astrocytoma, and through the Make-A-Wish program he wanted to be able to travel with the Wolves to an away game. Cody will be at tonight's game watching from a suite, where he is scheduled to meet with Kevin Love, and then he will be flown on the team plane to Oklahoma City for tomorrow night's game with the Thunder. Timberwolves.com will have a video of Cody's experience up online after the two-day event is complete.

No question, he is excited about the entire experience.

"I never thought I'd be able to get this opportunity, and I'm really happy about it," he said.

Cody found out about a month ago that he'd be traveling with the team through a video message from Kevin Love. He said he's a huge Timberwolves fan, and even though it will be fun to go to a visiting city like Oklahoma City, the part he's looking forward to most is getting to interact with the Wolves players. "A little nervous," he said. "I met Kevin Love at one of his camps earlier this year, so I'm a little nervous but more excited I'd say."

More to come on this story throughout the next two days.

Pregame 4:15 PM: The Timberwolves announced moments ago that coach Rick Adelman will not be coaching the team tonight due to personal reasons. He missed practice yesterday and was also not at this morning's shootaround. Assistant coach Terry Porter will act as the Wolves' head coach tonight against the Hawks, much like he did in late December 2011 when Adelman was absent for a regular season meeting with Milwaukee last year.

Pregame 3:45 PM: Welcome to Target Center as we prepare for tonight’s game between the Timberwolves and the Atlanta Hawks. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. tonight on Fox Sports North and 830 WCCO-AM, and you can follow along with all the pregame news and notes and in-game updates/analysis with Timberwolves.com’s in-game live blog. Should be a good one tonight as the Hawks are currently third in the East with an athletic group of starters and the Wolves continue to stay afloat despite significant injuries throughout the first two months.

Tonight could include a milestone for Andrei Kirilenko, who currently is one steal away from 1,000 and one assist away from 2,000 for his career. If he gets both tonight, he’d become the 15th player with 1,000 steals, 2,000 assists and 1,000 blocks for his career—joining Wolves assistant Jack Sikma in that exclusive group. For a guy who has made a career out of being able to impact areas of the game across the board, Kirilenko said the milestones aren’t what drives him, but they’re certainly nice along the way.

“I think it’s nice to have. I think for being a long time in the league and playing on such a high level, it’s worth a lot,” Kirilenko said. “not a lot of players can stay on that level for a long time. It’s nice to have.”

In other news, it’s former Wolves forward Anthony Tolliver’s first trip back to Target Center since leaving this fall to join the Hawks. AT said at shootaround that he’s still trying to find additional playing time in Atlanta.

“I’m just trying to break into the rotation consistently,” Tolliver said. “Trying to break into a role. I have a small role and trying to gain more over time, but it’s definitely a good thing.”

Here are a few pregame notes to keep in mind:

  • The Wolves trail in the series 15-28 and are 10-11 at home. The Hawks have won the last 11 meetings between the two clubs, including five straight at Target Center.


  • If the Wolves win tonight to go to 16-15, it will match their best start since compiling the same mark in 2006-07. The Wolves are 7-0 this season when scoring 100+ points and 0-6 when scoring less than 90 points. Six of the Wolves last 7 games have been decided by 6 points or less (3-3 record)


  • Minnesota has recorded 13 double-digit rebounding margins this season --- they had 10 in 2011-12. The Wolves lead the NBA in rebounding differential at +5.73 per game. The next best differential is Memphis at +4.31.


  • The Wolves rank 5th in the NBA in free throw attempts per game (25.6) and have allowed the 2nd fewest free throw attempts (19.7). Minnesota has attempted 30+ FTs in a game 12 times this season and allowed less than 20 FTs in a game 14 times.


  • Nikola Pekovic is averaging 19.1 ppg, on 53.6% shooting, and 9.9 rpg over the last 12 games. He has recorded 10 double-doubles this season and five 20/10 games.


  • J.J. Barea has scored in double-digits in 15 of the last 16 games, averaging 12.6 points and 4.7 assists over that stretch.


  • Alexey Shved has started the last 11 games, averaging 11.5 points and 6.4 assists over that span. He ranks 2nd among rookies in assists (4.6) and 3rd in scoring (10.8).


  • Atlanta has lost its last two games and three of its last four. Prior to that, the team had won four straight. At 20-12 overall, the Hawks are 3rd in the Eastern Conference.


  • The Hawks rank 4th in the NBA in assist with 23.3 apg and have failed to reach 20 assists in a game just 4 times this season.


  • Josh Smith ranks 6th in the NBA in blocks with 2.33 bpg. He needs 6 rebounds to reach 5,020 career boards and pass Cliff Hagan for 7th on the Hawks' all-time rebounding list.


  • Al Horford is tied for 5th in the NBA with 17 double-doubles and Josh Smith is 22nd with 13. Atlanta is 7-0 when both Horford and Smith record a double-double in the same game.


  • Lou Williams is averaging a career-high 15.3 ppg. He tallied a season-high 28 points in Atlanta's most recent game -- an 89-81 loss vs. Boston on Saturday.



  • For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter, and join the conversation at WolvesNation.com.