Wolves put an end to three-game slide with defeat of shorthanded Hawks
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Gorgui Dieng had 15 points and 15 rebounds to continue his out-of-nowhere emergence and the Minnesota Timberwolves dealt the slumping Atlanta Hawks another costly loss with a 107-83 victory.
Corey Brewer and Kevin Martin each scored 18 points and Kevin Love had 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Timberwolves. Minnesota scored 32 points off 26 Hawks turnovers and blew the game open in the second half.
Paul Millsap had 12 points and 10 rebounds for Atlanta, which has lost four straight and has the New York Knicks right in their rearview mirror for the eighth and final playoff spot. Jeff Teague, who had averaged more than 23 points over the previous four games, went scoreless for the first time this season on 0-for-5 shooting.
The struggling Wolves defense held Atlanta to 37.8 percent shooting and had six of its 17 steals in the third quarter to start pulling away.
With starting center Nikola Pekovic out for the sixth straight game, Wolves coach Rick Adelman had no choice but to thrust the rookie Dieng into the first significant minutes of his career. Dieng has flourished with the added responsibility, posting double-doubles in five of the six games. He had 10 points and 13 rebounds in the first half, helping the Wolves weather an unusually quiet night from Love.
The last time these two teams met, on Feb. 1, the Hawks overcame 43 points and 19 rebounds from Love to win for the fifth time in seven games. That put them at 25-22 and in third place in the Eastern Conference. But the Hawks have gone 6-17 since then, a slide exacerbated by injuries to Gustavo Ayon and Kyle Korver, who missed his fourth straight game with back spasms.
Atlanta's crumbling, combined with a surprising surge from the Knicks, turned a playoff spot that once appeared to be a foregone conclusion into anything but a sure thing. They led the ninth-place Knicks by three games for the final spot in the muddled East.
And yet on Wednesday night it was the Wolves, who have essentially been out of the Western Conference playoff race for about two weeks, who played with the urgency and tenacity on defense of a team that needs every win it can get.
The Hawks had won five straight games after an ugly string of 14 losses in 15 games. But they dropped games to the Pelicans, Raptors, Suns and Wolves to allow the Knicks to creep back into the race.© The Associated Press