ATLANTA (AP) — Joe Johnson wasn’t too concerned when Atlanta trailed Minnesota by 18 points late in the third quarter.
He could sense the Hawks were finally figuring out how to defend Kevin Love.
“We started focusing in on him and doubling him a lot more and trying to make it tough for him, but he’s a load down there, man,” Johnson said. “He did a great job of keeping them in the ballgame. He’s a hell of a player.”
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Johnson scored 25 points, Ivan Johnson hit the clinching free throws with 4.6 seconds remaining and the Hawks rallied from 18 points down to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 93-91 on Saturday night.
Love missed a potential game-winning 3-point attempt at the buzzer, but finished with 30 points and 13 rebounds for Minnesota, which was trying to win consecutive road games for the first time since last Feb. 7-8 at New Orleans and Houston. The Timberwolves were coming off a seven-point victory Friday against the Hornets.
“It’s my fourth year in the league, so I’ve had a lot of teams come back us, especially last year, so you never feel like a game is over no matter how far ahead you are,” Love said. “‘We started to shoot too many jump shots and didn’t get the ball inside enough. Plus, it seemed like they hit every single shot down the stretch.”
Jeff Teague added 20 points and 10 assists for the Hawks, who overcame a season-high 20 turnovers to win their second straight game after losing Al Horford to a torn pectoral muscle that will sideline the starting center for three to four months.
“Every game is not going to be perfect,” Joe Johnson said. “You’re going to have to win them ugly sometimes, and tonight was definitely an ugly game. I’m just glad we came out on top.”
Rookie Ricky Rubio, starting his second game in the last two nights, had 18 points and 12 assists for Minnesota. With 3:40 left in the third quarter, Rubio’s 12-foot runner from the left baseline gave the Timberwolves the game’s biggest lead at 18.
Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman was nearly speechless after watching a fourth quarter in which his team was outscored 30-20, was outrebounded 12-8 and committed five turnovers to the Hawks’ two.
There were five lead changes and the score was tied six times in the final period, but Minnesota never led after Love’s two free throws made it 86-84 with 2:41 remaining.
“I don’t have anything to say,” Adelman said. “Our guys did everything they could to win that game and it just didn’t happen. That’s all I have to say.”
Atlanta brought in Ivan Johnson and Jason Collins to contest Love inside and used a zone defense to close the passing lanes, helping the Hawks go on a 23-2 run. Teague’s 3 capped the run with 8:48 remaining to put the Hawks up 76-73 and give them a lead for the first time since the game’s first minute.
“It’s our fault,” Rubio said. “We just stopped running when they did that zone. We stopped scoring. When you are 18 up, you have to control the game. We have to learn about that. We didn’t know how to offense that zone.”
Ivan Johnson, a former NBA D-League standout, finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds while playing a season-high 25 minutes in Horford’s absence.
“I just like to play defense,” Ivan Johnson said. “I knew he couldn’t put the ball on the floor too well, so just get up in him, make him put it on the floor, make him pass it so he can’t score on me.”
Love scored 30 points for the 12th time in his career and finished with a double-double for an NBA-leading 12th time, but the stoic Ivan Johnson didn’t seem too impressed.
“My thing is don’t really watch basketball so I don’t know who anybody is,” he said. “I know the main ones, like Kobe (Bryant), (Dwyane) Wade and LeBron (James). Even if I did (know Love), I wouldn’t be afraid. We’re playing basketball.”
NOTES: Hawks F Marvin Williams returned to the lineup and had eight points and eight rebounds in 19 minutes. Williams missed the last three games with a sprained left ankle. “It’s probably going to be sore in the morning, but I’ll be in here getting treatment and be ready to go on Monday,” Williams said. The Hawks host Toronto at 4 p.m. on Monday. … Minnesota F Michael Beasley (right foot sprain) and reserve G Jose Barea (left ankle) did not make the two game road trip. … Hawks reserve G Tracy McGrady missed his third straight game with back spasms. … The Timberwolves will host Sacramento on Monday.