At the halftime break, the Atlanta Hawks were trailing by 6 points and sharp-shooting swingman Kyle Korver had managed only 7 points (and 3 shot attempts) through nearly 16 minutes of floor action. Then, the scene shifted for both Korver and the team, and we were left wondering what exactly had happened.
Korver clarified that suspicion post-game:
"Coach laid into us at halftime. He really did. I thought the guys responded. Obviously, it was a great third quarter for us. Hopefully, he doesn't have to talk to us like that all the time. It worked tonight."
Non-coincidentally, the Hawks scored 38 points in the 3rd quarter (for the second consecutive game), and it was Korver who was directly in the middle of the proceedings. Kyle knocked down three triples during a 20-4 spurt that gave Atlanta a 73-62 lead with just over 4 minutes remaining in the quarter, and from that point on, the Hawks would never trail again.
On the night, Korver led the team in scoring with 24 points (his highest point total since December 18th), but it was his always economic approach to amassing points that stood out. Kyle needed only 9 shot attempts (converting 7 of them) in order to reach his 24 points, and even with a rare missed free throw (he made 7-of-8), he excelled throughout the second half. To make things even more impressive, Korver was tasked with being defended by Corey Brewer, and while Coach Budenholzer referred to Brewer as "one of the best wing defenders in our league," he was still able to free himself up at the most opportune moments down the stretch.
Dealing with Kevin Love was a big-time chore for the Hawks in this particular match-up, and that showed on the stat sheet. The All-Star power forward entered the night as a "game-time decision" due to ankle concerns, but he exploded for 43 points and 19 rebounds to almost single-handedly keep the Wolves in the game. It is almost blasphemous to suggest that any Hawks defender could have been doing a good job on Love given the numbers, but the combination of Gustavo Ayon, Paul Millsap (who was tremendous offensively with 20 points before fouling out), Elton Brand, and Mike Scott did make Love work throughout the night.
It was yet another impressive outing from the Hawks bench, and while it is almost becoming commonplace to assume that the back-up bigs would excel, Mike Scott and Elton Brand held up their end of the bargain. Brand gave the team some huge minutes with 8 points and 7 rebounds, but his defensive impact is nearly immeasurable and he always seems to be in the right place at the right time. In the case of Scott, it was his eleventh consecutive game with double-figures in scoring, and while the majority of his 14 points came in small spurts, it all counts in the final box score.
In his second game back after suffering a sprained ankle, Jeff Teague excelled for Atlanta, especially down the stretch. Teague scored 11 of his 19 points in the 4th quarter, and he was the single biggest reason that the Hawks were able to hold off the late charge from Kevin Love and company. It is extremely encouraging to see Teague take on a large role, especially down the stretch, and his ability to break down Minnesota (and suffocating point guard Ricky Rubio) off the dribble was huge in addition to his "onions"-level three late in the 4th.
Knocking off a team that entered the night with a .500 record may not seem significant, but the Minnesota Timberwolves aren't exactly your run-of-the-mill .500 team, even in the absence of their starting center in Nikola Pekovic. That makes this victory far sweeter, especially given the way that the Hawks were forced to overcome what was a hugely productive night from Kevin Love. Fighting through adversity, from injuries to deficits, has become a hallmark of this particular edition of the Hawks, and hearing stories of Mike Budenholzer showing a bit of fire to inspire his team brings about positive emotion from the head coaching position.
Kyle Korver won't always score 2.67 points per field goal attempt (!!), but next time, it will be someone else, and that is the mark of an ultra-solid team with quality leadership at the helm.
- Hawks vs Timberwolves final score: Atlanta holds off Minnesota 120-113
- Kevin Love injury: Timberwolves' forward game-time decision against Hawks
- Feb 1: Hawks vs Timberwolves
- Hawks vs T-Wolves preview: Atlanta returns home for match-up with Minnesota
- Hawks sign Cartier Martin to 10-day contract (Updated)