MINNEAPOLIS — Nikola Pekovic is bulldozing the paint and Ricky Rubio is ready to start ramping up his minutes, giving the Minnesota Timberwolves hope that they can withstand another long stretch without All-Star forward Kevin Love.
Larry Drew's Atlanta Hawks have hit the skids after a superb start to the season, prompting the coach to label them "soft," which never sits very well with professional athletes.
Pekovic had 25 points and a career-high 18 rebounds, Andrei Kirilenko added 21 points and the Timberwolves beat the Hawks 108-103 on Tuesday night.
Derrick Williams scored 17 points and Alexey Shved had 15 for the Timberwolves, who were missing coach Rick Adelman due to personal reasons and will be without Love for the foreseeable future while he deals with a broken right hand for the second time this season. Terry Porter filled in as coach and led the Wolves to their first victory over Atlanta since 2006, snapping an 11-game skid.
"We were really motivated," said Pekovic, who has eight double-doubles in his last 13 games. "I think everybody was motivated with all that's happening with all our players. I think everybody wants to step up and show more."
Josh Smith had 21 points and 13 rebounds and Al Horford had 19 points and 11 boards for the Hawks, who have lost three straight and four of their last five. They lost for the first time this year when Smith and Horford each get a double-double.
"There's some guys in there that are going to have to be held accountable," Drew said. "As we move forward, if this doesn't change, there's going to have to be some changes. That's plain and simple. I'm not going to sit back and watch our guys come out and not be energized to play. That's totally unacceptable."