The Hawks checked in, punched out a win and then checked out. After losing their seventh game of the season Saturday night, the Hawks showed some resolve and never gave Minnesota a chance Tuesday night, winning 112-87.
The Hawks took a 16-4 lead at the start and kept the Timberwolves at arm’s length the remainder of the night.
“You can’t take any team lightly in this league,” guard Mike Bibby said. “We came out and we did what we were supposed to do.”
The Hawks moved to 20-7 and are now 6-1 in games following losses this season. The win sets up a mettle-testing skirmish tonight in Denver, where the Nuggets are 12-1. Atlanta is a 1/2 game behind first-place Orlando in the Southeast Division.
“They can run, they’re fast,” Bibby said of the Nuggets. “We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
The Hawks beat the Wolves despite fouling out two big men, Zaza Pachulia and Randolph Morris. For the second consecutive game, forward Josh Smith was mired in foul trouble, limiting his play to 21 minutes. He also was hit with a technical in the third quarter for arguing his fourth foul. It was definitely a night the Hawks could have used forward Joe Smith, who is out recovering from a dislocated thumb. Coach Mike Woodson even sent in little-used center Jason Collins in the first half.
“I think that’s the first time we’ve had two bigs foul out since I’ve been here,” Woodson said.
The Timberwolves (5-24) shot 36 free throws to the Hawks’ 25.
Despite the score, it was not the Hawks’ finest performance. Particularly in the first half, defensive breakdowns gave Minnesota continued open looks at the basket. They missed repeatedly from in close and shot 6 for 12 from the free throw line before halftime. For the game, the Hawks made 17 of 25.
Guard Jamal Crawford stood in the gap. Coming off the bench, he scored a game-high 26 points in just 27 minutes. He scored 18 in the second half on 6 of 10 shooting, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range.
“That’s what we expect him to do,” Woodson said. “He’s done that for us all year.”
What also helped was that Minnesota gave a demonstration on why it has won just five games this season.
They shot 36.8 percent from the floor in the first half and turned the ball over 22 times. Rookie point guard Jonny Flynn, trying to operate coach Kurt Rambis’ triangle offense, shot 5 of 13 and had two assists against four turnovers. The Timberwolves never got closer than eight points in the second half and, despite significant foul trouble for the Hawks, the game never really seemed in doubt.
By game’s end, the Hawks had held Minnesota to 41.1 percent shooting, and earned their seventh win of the season by 20 points or more.