Depleted Wolves blow 18-point lead, final chance in loss at Atlanta
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
The Minnesota Timberwolves blew an 18-point lead and botched a final chance to win or tie the game in Saturday's 93-91 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
The Wolves appeared to be on cruise control midway through the third quarter before the Hawks ripped off a 23-2 run.
Ivan Johnson made a driving layup to give the Hawks a three-point lead with 38 seconds remaining. On the ensuing possession, Ricky Rubio drained a 3-pointer to knot it at 91-all.
Josh Smith missed a 26-footer with six seconds remaining. But the Wolves allowed Johnson to get the offensive rebound and then fouled him, yielding two free throws Johnson made to cap a quarter in which he owned Kevin Love.
The Wolves had their chance to tie with 4.6 seconds left, but the in-bounds play was broken. Love appeared to be attempting to hand off the ball to Rubio when the two nearly collided, so Love took it himself and shot a fadeaway 3-pointer that didn't come close.
The loss dropped the Wolves to 4-8 and last place in the Northwest Division. After beating New Orleans on Friday, back-to-back road wins would have given the young squad momentum heading into two winnable home games against Sacramento and Detroit.
Coach Rick Adelman once again went with Rubio in the starting lineup, a night after playing him a career-high 44 minutes, and the rookie continued to shine. Rubio finished with a career-high 18 points, 12 assists, four rebounds and five steals -- the latest indication reports he would struggle on defense were unfounded.
Love finished with 30 points and 13 rebounds, shooting a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line one night after making 17 from the stripe.
The 23-2 run turned what looked like a relatively easy win for Adelman's bunch into a nightmare.
4: Minutes Pekovic had gotten all season before playing 17 minutes on Saturday for the depleted Wolves -- including the final minutes of crunch time while the game still hung in the balance.
2: Number of times Love has had back-to-back 30-point games in his short career. Love put up 34 on Friday at New Orleans.
13: Points off the bench for Wayne Ellington, who continued to show he can be a viable option while the Wolves are still thin at shooting guard. Ellington shot 6-of-9 from the field and gave the Wolves a needed lift when they were short on bodies.
J.J. Barea (ankle) and Michael Beasley (foot) remained out. Both are listed as day-to-day and there won't be much of an update until Adelman meets with the media Monday before the game against Sacramento.
Brad Miller (knee), Malcolm Lee (knee) and Martell Webster (back) remain out indefinitely.
The Wolves fly home and have the day off Sunday to rest their legs before hosting the Kings -- Adelman's former team. They then have a day off before the Pistons come to town on Wednesday for their only appearance in Target Center this season.