Minnesota Finishes Atlanta, 108-103
Wolves Editorial Associate
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Going into Tuesday night’s game against Atlanta, Minnesota knew that they needed a win before starting their four-game road trip.
Clicking on all cylinders, the Wolves grabbed the lead early and never let go on their way to a 108-103 Target Center win over the Hawks.
“It was a big closeout game for us,” assistant coach Terry Porter said. “Just the way we came out and the mindset we had and total focus. It was just great to see our guys really go out there and give it their all.”
Minnesota got rolling with a strong first quarter, getting 10 points from Nikola Pekovic and two shots from long-distance for Derrick Williams. With the help of a 62 percent rate from outside in the first half, the Wolves assumed a 58-42 halftime lead.
Atlanta managed to trim Minnesota’s lead down to single digits in the third quarter, but they really made a run in the fourth. The Hawks trimmed the deficit to just a single point with less than a minute left with a Al Horford dunk.
“The second half, we knew they were going to make a run at us,” Porter said. “Like we have done all year long, we responded when a team has come at us.”
From there, Dante Cunningham stepped up in a major way as the forward hit a clutch jumper from the baseline. Atlanta called a timeout, and Cunningham stole the inbounds pass to clinch the win—just like he did in Phoenix on December 29.
Wolves vs Hawks
After Cunningham secured the ball for Minnesota, Luke Ridnour hit two free throws to cement the score at 108-103. The win is the Wolves’ second in a row, and it comes before a string of four consecutive away games.
“OKC, New Orleans, all the teams we are playing are good teams,” Williams said of Minnesota’s impending road trip. “It’s good we have the momentum going into it. I think we’re going to be alright.”
Pekovic led the Wolves with 25 points on 9-for-15 shooting and collected 18 rebounds. Andrei Kirilenko logged 21 points, six rebounds and five assists, and Williams scored 17.
It’s good to be a part of this,” Barea said. “We’re going to go out every night and play hard. We’re a little deeper this year, and we’ve got guys stepping up every night. That’s what it’s going to take.”
Ricky Rubio dished out eight assists, his best total since his season debut against Dallas. Rubio had sat out the four previous games with back spasms.
Josh Smith recorded 21 points and 13 rebounds for Atlanta, and Al Horford had a double-double as well with 19 points and 11 boards. Lou Williams pitched in 21 points and eight assists.
Leader of the Pack: Nikola Pekovic
With Kevin Love absent from the lineup and Cunningham taking most of his shots from mid-range, Pekovic dominated the paint and was very efficient for Minnesota, making 9-of-15 shots for 25 points. He also pulled down 18 rebounds, six of which were offensive.
Highlight of the Night
Dante Cunningham had a fantastic stretch in the game’s final 30 seconds, as he swished a baseline jumper to give Minnesota a three-point lead and stole the ensuing inbounds pass to ice the win. Cunningham also stole the inbounds pass against Phoenix to secure the game on December 29.
“He did two things,” coach Porter said of Cunningham in the final seconds. “He shot offensively and came down and got a big steal defensively. Those were key plays.”
The Numbers Game
“A total team win tonight. Really pleased with effort the guys gave—Atlanta is a good basketball team. We got off to a great start. Really, offensively, [we] just got off to a great rhythm moving the ball early and moving around. Guys were making big shots, and we were getting to the basket.”—assistant coach Terry Porter, who filled in for head coach Rick Adelman.
The Wolves flew out soon after their win against Atlanta, arriving first in Oklahoma City to face the Thunder. From there, they will travel to New Orleans, San Antonio and Dallas before returning home.