It didn’t start well for the Hawks.
It sure ended well.
Ivan Johnson capped a dramatic comeback with two free throws with 4.6 seconds remaining as the Hawks defeated the Timberwolves 93-91 Saturday night at Philips Arena. Ivan Johnson has become a man of little words but big deeds.
The Hawks used a 24-2 run, including two 3-pointers from Willie Green and one each from Vladimir Radmanovic and Jeff Teague to erase an 18-point deficit. After a battle back-and-forth over the final quarter, Ivan Johnson was fouled after he rebounded a Josh Smith miss and sank the final two points.
“There is really nothing special to it,” Ivan Johnson said. “I’m here to work hard, every day, every game, every hour, every minute. That’s what I’m going to do.”
The Hawks (9-4) improved to 5-1 at home this season and have won five of their past six games. Joe Johnson led the Hawks with 25 points and they are now 5-1 when he scores 20 or more. Teague added 20 points.
However, it was the Hawks bench that sparked the comeback. The reserves scored 26 points, 24 coming after the Hawks called a timeout with 3:37 left in the third quarter as they trailed 71-53. Ivan Johnson and Green finished with 10 points each, Radmanovic had four and Jason Collins had two.
“As a coach you just search for the right combination,” coach Larry Drew said. “Once we found it, we got in a groove. Ivan and Willie came in and gave us a lot of energy. Vladimir gave us some energy. That’s where it all begins with us. If we are not playing with energy, we can’t expect positive results.”
The Hawks took a 77-73 lead after the big run. However, Wayne Ellington scored nine of the Timberwolves’ next 11 points for an 84-82 lead. The Hawks got a jumper by Green and a 3-pointer by Joe Johnson, with 1:26 left, that gave them a cushion at 89-86. A 3-pointer by Ricky Rubio tied the game at 91-91 and set up Ivan Johnson’s final-second heroics.
“My thing is, I don’t really watch basketball so I don’t know who anybody is,” Ivan Johnson said. “So when I match up against them, they are a regular player. I know the major players like LeBron [James], Kobe [Bryant], [Dwyane] Wade but all the extra ones I don’t know. Even if I did know them, I’m not going to be afraid. We are playing basketball.”
The Hawks opened the scoring on a Marvin Williams layup. It didn’t go well from there until late in the third quarter. They missed their next seven shots and had four turnovers. They trailed by 10 points twice in the first quarter and finished with a 29.2 shooting percentage (7 for 24) in the opening stanza. The Timberwolves, by stark contrast, shot 47.8 percent (11 for 23).
The Hawks went on a 19-9 run to tie the game at 28-28 midway through the second quarter but the Timberwolves answered with a 7-0 run. By the end of the half the lead was 11 points, at 53-42. Smith was assessed a technical foul for arguing a call following the buzzer.
Kevin Love finished with a game-high 30 points for the Timberwolves.
Drew was concerned with Lowe, who entered the game sixth in the NBA in scoring at 24.5 points per game. The 6-foot-10 Love has moved much his game to the perimeter and the Hawks were wary of his 3-point shooting.
However, Love had 15 first-half points, but none from the 3-point range as he attempted just one from long range. He scored 13 of the Timberwolves’ first 15 points of the second half, mostly from inside the paint. Minnesota opened the second half on a 17-8 run before the Hawks’ comeback.
Drew called a timeout with 3:37 left in the third quarter, down by the 18 points, and just asked his players to cut the deficit to 10 points by the end of the stanza. Just 1:41 later the deficit was 12 points. By the end of the quarter it was eight points.
“I thought we gained the momentum at the end of the third and pretty much had it the whole fourth quarter,” Joe Johnson said. “We didn’t think we were out of it. Our body language was a bit down but for the most part we understood it was realistic for us to get back in the game. We made substitutions and our bench came in and did a great job getting us back in the game.”
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