MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—With his team trailing by one and Kevin Garnett sitting out, young point guard Marcus Banks drove the lane in the final seconds and took it upon himself to win the game for Minnesota.
“It’s a great opportunity for these young guys to do what they did today,” Wolves coach Dwane Casey said. “To compete, to build, to grow and to fight. Most of all, to win without those guys.”
Garnett sat out with tendinitis in his right knee, snapping his NBA-leading streak of 351 games started, and Davis was out with a sore groin.
“We were relaxed tonight because their two key guys were out,” Atlanta’s Joe Johnson said. “I think we kind of took these guys a little lightly. We don’t have no room to take anybody lightly.”
Without Minnesota’s main attraction, the home crowd lacked energy. But the Wolves left to a standing ovation anyway, thanks to Hassell’s heroics.
“We finally got a game on a last-second shot,” Casey said.
With Atlanta leading 83-82 after Johnson’s running layup with 17 seconds to play, Smith blocked Banks in the lane, but Hassell came away with the loose ball and hit a 4-footer over Al Harrington to give Minnesota the lead.
Banks blocked Tyronn Lue’s attempt at the buzzer to seal it.
Hassell left before speaking to reporters, but Hawks coach Mike Woodson said the game shouldn’t have come down to a final shot.
“We were so lethargic it was a joke,” he said. “We just saw this team two games ago and our energy was much, much higher than it was tonight. So that’s unacceptable.”
With Garnett and Davis—who have led the Wolves in scoring a combined 53 times this season and have 17 years of NBA experience between them—both out, Harrington and Lue were the most experienced players on the court.
It gave Wolves coaches an opportunity to evaluate their young talent. McCants, who’s had an up-and-down rookie season out of North Carolina, showed his versatility by shooting 12-for-18 from the floor on a mix of jumpers and hard drives to the basket.
“Marcus has the confidence in me to get the ball and put it in the hole,” McCants said. “That’s all you need, is confidence from your point guard and your coach and I think everybody just turned it up tonight.”
McCants’ previous career high was 21 points on March 1 against New Jersey.
Blount, who came to Minnesota with Davis in the seven-player January trade with Boston, had only two points against the Hawks last Wednesday and a combined 19 points in Minnesota’s previous three games. But he went 6-for-9 on Sunday and 5-for-6 from the foul line.
Smith, Harrington and Johnson each had 14 points for the Hawks. But Atlanta struggled mightily from the floor, making 30 of 77 field goal attempts. The Hawks entered the game seventh in the league in 3-point percentage (.375), but went only 1-for-13 from behind the arc.
“We’ve got to get back to driving the ball and making plays,” Johnson said.
Garnett hadn’t missed a game since Feb. 19, 2001, at Dallas for personal reasons. After ending 2001-02 with 29 straight starts, Garnett started each game the next three seasons and kept his streak alive through 76 games this year.
Wolves backup guard Anthony Carter missed his third consecutive game with a sore right foot. … Atlanta fell to 6-39 when scoring fewer than 100 points this season. … The Wolves have won six straight on Sunday afternoons. … Minnesota has beaten the Hawks eight straight times in Minneapolis, dating to April 12, 1997.