The Hawks entered tonight’s game winning three of their last four games and narrowly losing their last game to the Pacers in Atlanta. The team was traveling light in the frontcourt as Alex Len continues to recover and with Omar Spellman continuing to be sidelined for a little while longer.
Atlanta’s normal first quarter struggles were nowhere to be found on Friday night, as they got out to a roaring start against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Of all people to go off, it was Alex Poythress leading the way in the early going along with John Collins and Kent Bazemore.
Poythress saw time at both the power forward and center positions for the Hawks in the first as they are currently thin up front and it actually worked beautifully. Atlanta quickly hit on a 9-0 run thanks to a couple drives into the paint where Minnesota was nowhere to be found.
Atlanta’s elder statesman, Vince Carter, entered the game midway through the first and went on an absolute tear of his own. Carter rattled off three consecutive three pointers to stretch the lead even more and help Atlanta to their highest scoring opening quarter of the season as the visitors took a 42-27 lead into the second.
Things did not slow down much for the Hawks in the second quarter either, as Kevin Huerter, Dewayne Dedmon and Bazemore hit on three straight from beyond the arc as things started to look grim for the Wolves.
Minnesota did go on a little run around the middle of the second as Robert Covington and Karl Anthony-Towns got going, but Atlanta was able to quickly stop the bleeding thanks to a Jeremy Lin three pointer which drove the lead back to 13 points and settled things back down to end the first half. The Hawks took a comfortable 71-59 lead into the break, but definitely were concerned about their foul trouble, as Bazemore piled up four first half personals to go along with three on both Dedmon and Lin.
The T-Wolves came into the second half with noticeably more energy as the Hawks attempted to weather the storm. Trae Young eclipsed the 10-assist mark around the six minute mark of the third as he continues to have a fine rookie season.
Dedmon was a vital part of the Hawks offensive attack throughout the third quarter as he knocked down three crucial three pointers, scoring half of their points in the period. For Minnesota, Covington was the story of the third period. Although he didn’t do a ton of scoring, he was making his presence felt with effort plays and by getting his teammates involved.
Atlanta’s defense in the third quarter was not all that bad, but the Wolves were clamping down with their starters in the game as they attempted to make up some ground before the fourth quarter began. There were not many foul calls going Atlanta’s way and the Wolves were able to slowly claw their way back into the game.
In the final seconds of the third quarter, Covington knocked down a fallaway three pointer to actually knot things back up at 89. That was where the score would settle going into the final frame thanks to a terrible offensive quarter for the Hawks that saw them get outscored 30-18.
The Hawks shot 33% in the quarter compared to the Wolves shooting 59% after Atlanta shot 62% overall in the first half.
After running their starters into the ground by playing them for the entire third quarter, the Timberwolves turned to their bench to open the fourth but it mattered not as the Hawks could no longer stop the momentum that Minnesota had rolling. The Wolves grabbed the lead early in the quarter and the Hawks offense from the first half was still nowhere to be found. Derrick Rose (who suddenly is a big-time contributor again) hit a three pointer around the eight minute mark of the fourth and you could see the air go out of the Hawks bench.
Bazemore attempted to single-handedly breathe some life into the young Hawks squad by going to the rim and getting some easy buckets to get the visitors back within three with just under six minutes remaining.
With the game going back and forth the Timberwolves were forced to play their starters even more as four players made their way over the 35 minute mark. Towns was huge for the Wolves down the stretch as he was able to get consecutive open dunks to push the lead to three points with just over two minutes remaining.
In the most crucial point of the game the Hawks had a string of silly plays beginning with a Trae Young behind the back pass that went for a backcourt violation. Then after a Towns made free throw Dewayne Dedmon tried a side-step fadeaway three pointer from the top of the key which he missed badly.
Atlanta was able to grab consecutive offensive rebounds somehow which led to a John Collins layup that cut the lead to two with twenty second remaining. Then, inexplicably, the Timberwolves turned over the ball on an inbounds pass which Kent Bazemore rushed down the floor for a dunk to knot the game at 112.
Minnesota went to Rose for the final shot but he was smothered at the rim by four Hawks who (miraculously) did not foul him as the teams took matters into overtime.
Overtime didn’t get off to a great start for the Hawks as Collins missed the jump to open the period. Atlanta then allowed multiple offensive rebounds to the Wolves who capitalized with a Covington layup to quickly take the first lead.
After the Hawks took the lead back with a three point play by Young Minnesota got the lead back again. Then in a wild sequence Young came running full speed on a fast break and stopped on a dime knocking down a 40-foot three pointer to take a one point lead.
To make things even wilder, Andrew Wiggins was then fouled and missed both free throws to keep Atlanta’s one point lead intact. Kevin Huerter then calmly came down the floor and nailed a pull-up three pointer to put the Hawks up four like it was his 1000th career game.
Kevin Huerter on the big stage. The rookies have come up big in overtime. pic.twitter.com/BNHNdwOFko— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) December 29, 2018
After a foul on the other end, Towns was able to sink both free throws to pull the Wolves within two. Huerter wasn’t able to hit his next three-point attempt and, with around ten second remaining, Minnesota brought the ball up the court with Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins was fouled shooting just inside the arc, but was only 4-of-10 on free throws as he strolled to the line needing to make both. Wiggins went 1-of-2 at the line and the foul game began.
Kevin Huerter was fouled with the T-Wolves foul to give in the first overtime and then the ball went to Dedmon on the ensuing inbounds which wasn’t optimal from a numbers point of view, but the big man stepped up and knocked down both from the line putting the Hawks up three.
With just two seconds remaining and with Covington (The Wolves best shooter) fouled out the Timberwolves turned to rookie Josh Okogie for the final shot which he missed after a controversial bump from DeAndre Bembry giving Atlanta their tenth win of the season in true grind-it-out fashion.
In truth, Minnesota’s starters are most likely glad that game is over now as Covington played 44 minutes before fouling out, Towns played 42 minutes of his own and Wiggins played 40 as well.
Kent Bazemore led the way for the Hawks totaling 23 points before also fouling out, John Collins was close behind with 21 points and 10 rebounds of his own. Two more Hawks came away with double-doubles as Dewayne Dedmon posted 19 points and 13 boards alongside Trae Young, who went for 16 points and 11 assists.
Overall, this was a very solid game for the young Hawks who could view this game as a jumping off point of sorts after being up so much in the first half, blowing it all away in the third and then scrapping their way to a victory still. This is definitely a part of the “process” that Coach Lloyd Pierce is very accustomed to.
Following this game, the Hawks will travel home to Atlanta for a quick turnaround, as the Cleveland Cavaliers arrive for a face-off on Saturday night at State Farm Arena.
For good measure, let’s go to the #BazeGaze: