MINNEAPOLIS — Maybe that concussion knocked some sense into Marvin Williams.
With All-Star Joe Johnson at home with an illness, Williams filled in beautifully with 23 points and 10 rebounds to lift the Hawks to a 94-86 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.
Since missing two games with a concussion in January, Williams is averaging 17.1 points and 8.4 rebounds and starting over the last seven to start to fulfill the promise he showed when he was the No. 2 overall pick out of North Carolina in 2005.
“I thought Marvin answered the bell very clearly and loud that he could perform at a high level,” coach Mike Woodson said. “He’s been on a nice run ever since that concussion and it’s nice to see him step up tonight and make plays for us.”
Josh Smith added 19 points and seven rebounds, and Mike Bibby had 24 points and seven assists, including a 3-pointer with 44.2 seconds to play that put the game out of reach.
Al Jefferson had 18 points and 11 rebounds, and rookie Kevin Love had 16 points and 13 rebounds for Minnesota, but it was the revival of two missing shooters that allowed the Wolves to trim a 17-point third-quarter deficit to two with 1:04 remaining.
Mike Miller scored eight of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, and Rashad McCants, who had not played in 13 games after falling out of coach Kevin McHale’s rotation, had 10 points in 15 minutes.
“Rashad was a bright spot tonight and there weren’t many,” McHale said.
The Timberwolves had too many careless turnovers down the stretch to overcome a dreadful first three quarters of the game on both ends of the court.
Playing without their top players is nothing new to Atlanta. Smith and Al Horford missed a combined 24 games earlier this season with injuries. Horford returned to the lineup after a 12-game absence with a knee injury and had four points and six rebounds.
Woodson said Williams would have to increase his role with the team’s leading scorer and assist man out, and that’s exactly what he did.
The one-and-done former Tar Heel got to the rim at will against the lethargic Timberwolves, including a layup that gave the Hawks a 73-56 lead with just under 2 minutes to play in the third quarter.
The Timberwolves entered the night just 3-10 in the second game of a back-to-back, with all three victories coming in a 10-win January that earned McHale coach of the month honors.
But with Williams and Smith having their way inside, the Hawks outscored Minnesota 18-6 in the first five minutes of the second quarter to take a 40-24 lead.
“It’s huge,” Williams said of winning without Johnson. “It shows the growth of our team not having him in the lineup and still coming away with a win.”
Atlanta shot 51.5 percent in the first half and got to the line 14 times, while the Wolves shot 31 percent and had only five free throw attempts. Their starting five was 6-for-29 (21 percent) in the first 17 minutes of the game.
Sebastian Telfair was 0-for-9 from the floor and Randy Foye was 4-for-19. Even the normally efficient Jefferson missed 10 of his 17 shots.
Completely flustered by Atlanta’s zone defense that fronted Jefferson, McHale wasn’t so concerned with the missed shots but the complete lack of ball movement.
“I don’t even have the heart to watch that film tonight, otherwise I won’t sleep all night,” McHale said. “I’ll watch it tomorrow.”