Atlanta 94, Wolves 87: Wolves follow familiar formula, lose again

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 26, 2007 - 12:03 AM

The Wolves just couldn't shake the pattern of letting the victory slip from their grasp. This loss dropped them to 1-10.

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MARLIN LEVISON *mlevison@startribune.com 11/24/07 Assign#000000471- Wolves vs. Atlanta. Atlanta won 94-87. . IN THIS PHOTO: Atlanta's Josh Childress prepared to block the layup of Wolves Marko Jaric as Minnesota fell behind in 2nd half action. ORG XMIT: 0711242141104264

Photo: Marlin Levison, Dml - Dml - Marlin Levison*mlevi

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Perfectly positioned to fulfill their coach's pre-game prediction about kicking down the proverbial door, the Timberwolves delivered a closing collapse stunning even by their November standards with Saturday's 94-87 loss to Atlanta at sparsely populated Target Center.

In one evening, the Wolves reached season highs and lows for points in a half by scoring 63 before intermission and 24 after it.

In doing so, they lost for the 10th time in their first 11 games -- two five-game losing streaks sandwiched around a Nov. 14 home victory over Sacramento.

"Over and over and over, I don't know what it is," Wolves guard Sebastian Telfair said. "This one is the toughest. It's frustrating. I'm embarrassed."

Leading 16-6, 28-12, 43-23 and 63-45 by halftime, the Wolves still held a 16-point lead with a little more than three minutes left in the third quarter and then watched it all fall away. The Hawks produced a 36-10 run over the next 12 minutes that left at least one patron in an audience announced at 14,101 fans repeatedly stomping a metal courtside bleacher in disgust.

One night after the Wolves let another lead slip away in Denver, Wolves coach Randy Wittman suggested his team was on the verge of kicking down that door. "The hinges are buckling a bit," he had said.

For nearly 33 minutes, the Wolves moved the ball efficiently, attacked the basket and overwhelmed the Hawks with a performance that included Al Jefferson reaching his ninth double-double in 11 games before halftime.

Then what happened?

"You tell me," Wittman said. "I mean, the same thing that has happened thus far for 10 of the 11 games. We played scared. That's what it looked like to me. Instead of taking an 18-point lead at halftime and making it 30, we played not to lose instead of to win."

The Wolves scored 35 points in the second quarter alone, then managed just 12 in each of the final two. The Hawks clamped down on Jefferson, who had 18 points before halftime and five points after it. And the Wolves once again this season settled for far too many jump shots that didn't fall on a night when Hawks veteran guard Tyronn Lue revived his team with a splended performance off the bench.

When the Wolves pulled within six in the final two minutes and had the chance to get within three, Antoine Walker tripped over an official as he broke free for a pass and a possible three-point shot and the pass tumbled out of bounds.

"Excuses are over with," Walker said. "We're 11 games into the season. We had a chance to turn our season around this weekend and instead we went the other way. We have to stop making excuses and find a way to toughen up."

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  • ATLANTA 94, WOLVES 87

    Up next: at New Orleans • 7 p.m. Monday • TV: FSN (106.1-FM)

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