(Reuters) - The Minnesota Timberwolves coped with the absence of head coach Rick Adelman and All Star forward Kevin Love to beat Atlanta 108-103 on Tuesday, ending a near seven-year winless run against the Hawks.
Timberwolves coach Adelman missed the game for personal reasons, while Love is out indefinitely after reinjuring his right hand last week, but the home team still had enough beat the Hawks for the first time since April 2006.
Nikola Pekovic scored 25 points and had 18 rebounds, Andrei Kirilenko added 21 for Minnesota (16-15), who had lost 11 straight to the Hawks before Tuesday’s game.
“We were really motivated,” Pekovic told reporters. “I think everyone wants to step up and show more.”
Minnesota led 100-89 with four minutes remaining but Atlanta managed to cut the deficit to one in the final minute. Minnesota’s Dante Cunningham made a crucial jump shot with 15 seconds left and the Timberwolves added free throws to put the game away.
Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio returned from a four-game absence with back spasms and had eight assists in just 19 minutes of action.
Josh Smith and Louis Williams each scored 21 for the Hawks (20-13), who have lost three straight.
“If this doesn’t change there’s going to have to be some changes, that’s plain and simple,” said Hawks coach Larry Drew.
“(To) come out and not be energized to play, that’s totally unacceptable.”
Atlanta fell behind early, trailing by as much as 17 in the second, but they sprang to life late in the fourth, with Kyle Korver making two straight three-pointers. Al Horford had 19 and 11 rebounds in the defeat.
Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford