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Hawks come from 21 down to beat Timberwolves

POSTED: November 29, 2007 5:04 a.m.
MINNEAPOLIS — Josh Smith and the Atlanta Hawks have suddenly found a steeliness on the road.

Smith scored 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter to help Atlanta erase a 21-point deficit in a 94-87 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night.

Joe Johnson scored 25 points, and Tyronn Lue had seven of his 13 in the fourth for the Hawks, who were winless in their previous 17 road games before they overcame a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to win at Miami on Wednesday night.

Al Jefferson had 23 points and 16 rebounds, and Marko Jaric added 20 and six assists for the Timberwolves, an NBA-worst 1-10. The 21-point advantage was the third-largest lead Minnesota has blown in franchise history.

Things couldn’t have gone much better for the Timberwolves in the first half. Jefferson and Antoine Walker combined to hit all 11 of their shots and they led by 18 points at halftime and 11 to start the fourth quarter.

But once again, these young Wolves couldn’t come up with enough offense in crunch time as they lost their fifth straight.

With Jefferson on the bench to start the fourth, Lue opened with a 3-pointer from the elbow that started a 7-0 run, and suddenly Minnesota’s lead had dwindled to four.

After a couple of debatable calls went Atlanta’s way, the Timberwolves seemed to come unglued, and Smith took over.

He hit a pair of free throws, converted a three-point play and then hit a 3-pointer during a 14-0 run to give the Hawks an 87-78 lead with 4 minutes to go.

After receiving a standing ovation from the sparse home crowd at halftime, the Wolves heard plenty of boos as the lead disintegrated and coach Randy Wittman slammed his hands on the press table in frustration as the game slipped away.

It was the most devastating loss yet for the Timberwolves in the post-Kevin Garnett era.

The Timberwolves shot 66 percent and played almost flawlessly in the first half to jump out to a big lead.

Jefferson was owning rookie Al Horford and the Hawks on the low block until Atlanta coach Mike Woodson started running double- and triple-teams at him in the second half. That strategy paid off, limiting Jefferson’s touches and creating turnovers that helped the Hawks get back in the game.

Atlanta had five dunks and forced eight turnovers in the third quarter to cut the lead to 75-64 after three quarters.

Notes: Smith, who also had eight rebounds and five assists, put on a shot-blocking show in the third quarter, emphatically swatting a dunk by Jefferson, a jumper by Marko Jaric and a layup by Corey Brewer. ... Atlanta rookie PG Acie Law IV (ankle) did not make the trip. F Lorenzen Wright (hamstring) also missed the game. ... Timberwolves C Theo Ratliff missed his fourth straight game with a sore knee.



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