ATLANTA – This time, Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman needed not bristle so much about questions concerning decisions he made near game’s end, as he did after Friday’s home loss to Memphis.
His team lost 120-113 to the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night as much because of the way it finished the first half as it did the fourth-quarter home stretch.
Leading by 11 points with 58 seconds remaining before halftime, the Wolves surrendered the second quarter’s final five points and, in doing so, gave hope to a team that would have had far less had the visitors not made two unwise choices as the final seconds ticked away.
Suddenly trailing just 54-48 at halftime when they easily could have been down 11 points again, the Hawks used that quick turnabout to springboard to a 38-21 third-quarter advantage and a 72-point second half that won the game.
The Wolves’ second loss in as many nights dropped them back under .500 at 23-24, and it wasted a 43-point, 19-rebound performance by Kevin Love.
The Wolves haven’t won in Atlanta since November 2002 and are 0-3 this season in games in which Love has scored 40 or more points.
“I didn’t even know I had it until K-Mart told me after the game,” Love said, referring to teammate Kevin Martin. “I was just trying to get us back in the game by any means.”
The Wolves needed a fourth-quarter comeback that got them within three with three minutes left but no closer because of the way they finished the second quarter.
They had the ball in the final 10 seconds and a chance to build another 11-point lead, but Atlanta turned Ricky Rubio’s bad pass with less than three seconds left into three half-ending Kyle Korver free throws after Corey Brewer needlessly fouled Korver on a desperation three-point attempt at the buzzer.
“We didn’t take care of it at the end,” Adelman said. “You’ve got to finish the halves and the quarters.”
Rubio tried making a fancy pass in traffic to Ronny Turiaf — much like he had done not long before with a nifty behind-the-back pass that Turiaf converted into a slam dunk — with the clock expiring and the chance to regain a double-digit lead. But Eastern Conference All-Star Paul Millsap stole the ball under the basket.
“My mistake. It’s something that happened,” Rubio said. “I need to control more the last play of every quarter. That was huge. We had a great second quarter and we just blew five points, and it kept going in the third quarter.”
Rubio’s turnover led to Brewer’s foul well down the floor as Korver’s threw up a desperation shot shot from well beyond the arc. Until then, Brewer held Korver, owner of the NBA record for most consecutive games with a three-pointer made, to one three-point attempt.
This time, he got a little too carried away with limiting Korver.
“I had a bad foul right there at the end,” Brewer said. “That’s tough. That’s three points right there. I can’t do that. I can’t make mistakes like that. It’s a bad foul anyway you put it. You can’t make those plays.”
Or as Adelman put it: “He’s shooting a prayer. You’ve just got to let it go. If he makes it, he makes it.”
Korver made all three free throws and then went 3-for-3 on three-pointers in a quarter in which the Hawks started out on a 25-8 run that changed the game. His first three extended his NBA-record streak to 115 games. He scored 12 of his 24 points in that third quarter.
“I was trying to keep him from shooting because once he makes one, you seen what happened,” Brewer said. “I really don’t care about the record. I care about stopping the guy.”
When asked if the Hawks’ second-quarter finish contributed to their decisive third-quarter start, Adelman said, “It sure does. I think so, it definitely does.”