MINNEAPOLIS — The Hawks picked up right where they left off – and that’s not a good thing.
After a dreadful second half of a loss to the Celtics Saturday prompted a team meeting, the Hawks started slow in a 108-103 defeat to the Timberwolves Tuesday at the Target Center. In their first game after the meeting, the Hawks never led.
Hawks coach Larry Drew labeled his team’s start “soft.”
“We waited way too late to start playing,” Drew said. “The first half we were soft. Soft. We did not guard very well. I thought physically they did just about anything that they wanted to. We played with no urgency in that first half. I told the guys at halftime, it’s not a sometimes thing. You can’t come out and play sometimes. You’ve got to come out and start the game highly energized. We can’t play normal. We can’t be a team that just sits back and allows other teams to do what they want to do. We have to be the aggressor.”
Drew added that he would hold his players accountable.
“There are some guys in there that are going to be held accountable,” Drew said. “As we move forward, if this thing doesn’t change there are going to have to be some changes. That’s plain and simple. I’m not going to watch our guys come out and start every game and not be energized to play. That’s totally unacceptable.”
When asked who specifically needs to be held accountable for the poor starts, Drew responded: “Everybody. Everybody. I played quite a few people in that first half. Everybody has to be held accountable.”
The Hawks (20-13) have lost a season-long three straight and four of five. They are losing their grip on third place in the Eastern Conference. They are now tied with the Pacers and just a half-game ahead of the Bulls.
The Hawks nearly erased a 17-point deficit. They pulled within one point in the fourth quarter, 104-103, with 36.6 remaining. However, Dante Cunningham scored with 15.9 seconds left and the Hawks then committed a turnover to halt the comeback.
The Timberwolves (16-5) snapped an 11-game losing streak to the Hawks despite playing without Kevin Love.
“It’s probably fair to say,” Hawks center Al Horford said of Drew’s “soft” comment. “I don’t think that we are a soft team but it’s fair to say. I think we came out uninterested. Us, the guys who are playing, I’ll take blame for that. We have a game tomorrow so we have to show we are better tomorrow.”
“I don’t roll with that,” was Josh Smith’s response.
Smith led the Hawks with 21 points. He also finished with 13 rebounds to move into seventh place on the Hawks’ all-time rebound list with 5,027. He surpassed Cliff Hagan (5,019). Lou Williams added 21 points and Horford had 19 points and 11 rebounds. The Hawks lost for the first time this season with both Smith and Horford had a double-double.
Nikola Pekovic led the Timberwolves with 25 points and 18 rebounds.
The Timberwolves led by as many as 17 points in the first half and took a 58-42 lead into halftime.
The Hawks made only one of their first six shots and never led. They finished with just six first-half assists. Williams paced the Hawks with 12 points in the opening 24 minutes.
“I don’t think we came out with the energy,” Williams said. “We decided to wait until the second half to start playing and it bit us in the butt. I think the first half is when we should have responded when they were playing very well. I thought that would have been a perfect opportunity for us to get ourselves going and get geared up and meet the challenge. We waited too late to do that.”
The Hawks started the third quarter with an 18-8 run to cut their deficit to six points, 66-60. However, the Timberwolves answered with a 13-3 run that was punctuated by Alexey Shved steal and an and-one dunk.
Jeff Teague was called for the foul, one of five on the night to go with just five points.
“They called it,” Teague said of his foul troubles. “That’s the way the whistle blew tonight. It was tough out there tonight.”
The Hawks play again Wednesday at the Cavaliers as the attempt to halt a season-long losing streak.
“(Drew) challenged us at halftime and we responded,” Horford said. “It starts with me. I have to do better, whatever that means, if I have to play harder, whatever it takes. We are going through a little rut right now but we have to stick together.”
- Chris Vivlamore
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