The Timberwolves ended an 11-game slide to the Hawks earlier this season, but it’s anybody’s guess as to what to expect in Monday’s rematch in Atlanta.
There were eight players out for Minnesota (17-20) as it surprisingly snapped a five-game slide with Saturday’s 92-79 victory over Houston. The most notable absences are Kevin Love (hand), Nikola Pekovic (bruised right quad) and Alexey Shved (ankle), all of whom average in double figures.
The Timberwolves are also missing coach Rick Adelman, who is tending to his hospitalized wife. Terry Porter is taking his place.
Atlanta (22-18) learned Saturday that third-leading scorer Lou Williams will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. That news came before a 98-93 home loss to San Antonio in which Devin Harris was lost to a sprained left ankle in the third quarter.
“We are down to one point guard,” coach Larry Drew said, referring to Jeff Teague “We’re certainly going to have to talk about getting some more bodies in here because we are depleted.”
That unheralded duo then combined for Minnesota’s first 23 points in the fourth quarter against the Rockets. Johnson, signed from Santa Cruz of the NBA Development League, finished with 15 points and Gelabale, who came over from France, had 11.
“Everything just worked out in our favor,” Johnson said.
Minnesota had fallen by an average of 16.0 points in its losing streak before limiting Houston to 32.1 percent shooting - a season low for a Wolves opponent.
“All in all, I just can’t say enough about those guys really never quitting, always no matter what type of adversity they faced, they continued to believe in each other and continued to play the right way,” Porter said. “I’m just so proud of what they’ve done.”
Atlanta has dropped eight of 10, and more will be expected from Teague now. Rookie John Jenkins will also see more action after he logged 22 minutes versus the Spurs.
“We’ll be OK,” leading scorer Josh Smith said. “We’ve just got to stay with it, not really worry about our mistakes, just keep getting better as a team and it’ll get better.”
Atlanta has won nine straight at home over Minnesota, which ended its lengthy overall skid in the series with a 108-103 home victory Jan. 8.
Pekovic led the Wolves with 25 points and 18 rebounds but he won’t play Monday. Neither will Williams, who tied for Atlanta’s team lead with 21 points and had eight assists in that contest.
Minnesota, last in the NBA in 3-point shooting at 29.3 percent, turned in its best effort from beyond the arc by making 8 of 15 attempts (53.3 percent) against Atlanta.