Nets turn a ‘W’ over to Timberwolves

The Minnesota Timberwolves won a very up-and-down game over the Nets, 98-91, on Wednesday night at Barclays Center. The Nets, including Brook Lopez and Kevin Garnett, stumbled down the stretch, and a big factor in the loss was that the Nets committed 18 turnovers.

This was a game of streaks, started by Minnesota jumping out to a 17-2 lead in the opening six minutes. The Nets then went on a run and were within three, at 24-21, at the end of the first. The Wolves were cold for a good part of the second quarter, and the Nets took advantage and led 48-47 at halftime.

In the third, Minnesota rookie Andrew Wiggins took over, with 7 points in the quarter, including a layup along the baseline in which he ran right past Joe Johnson. Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio had  assists and 2 rebounds in the third, a big reason they outscored the Nets 25-18 in the frame and took a 72-66 lead into the fourth.

The Nets got it going in the fourth, with Jarrett Jack starting things off with a basket and a couple free throws and Mirza Teletovic canning a three-pointer to make it 73-72 Nets. Right after that was a crazy sequence in which Deron Williams missed a tip-in, Minnesota raced to the other end, Kevin Martin missed a jumper, Mason Plumlee rebounded and got it back up the court to Williams for a three in the corner to electrify the crowd and make it 76-72 Nets with 8:25 left in the game.

The Nets were winning with an up-tempo style, which made the next move concerning. With the score 82-76 and 6:04 left, Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins brought Kevin Garnett back into the game.

The Nets kept it up initially, with Johnson hitting a soft floater and a finger roll to make it 86-80 with 4:44 left, but the Wolves had one run left in them. They made their next four shots, capped by a Kevin Martin three to make it 89-88 Minnesota with 2:10 left.

On the Nets’ ensuing possession, Johnson got to the line, hit one of two free throws and then a floater to make it 91-89 Nets with 1:28 remaining. Rubio followed that with a driving lay-up to tie the game at 91. Thaddeus Young then stole it out of Johnson’s hands at the top of the key, leading to a Nikola Pekovic layup with 48.6 seconds left, and he was fouled by Lopez to make it a three-point play and give Minnesota a 94-91 lead.

At this point, Hollins pulled Garnett for Teletovic because he needed another shooter on the floor. In the time Garnett was on the floor, from the 6:04 mark to 48.6 seconds left, Minnesota outscored the Nets 18-9. It is not pure coincidence, as it seems that teams light up when they see Garnett and run every play at him, knowing he can’t keep up. With Brook Lopez on the court as well, they might be the two slowest big men on the floor at the same time in the NBA, and a real liability against a young, fast team like Minnesota.

Speaking of Lopez, he was called for an offensive foul out of the timeout. Lopez said of that play, “Dumb foul you know. We had an opportunity and I killed it.” Minnesotsa responded, as Thaddeus Young hit a floating jumper to make it 96-91 Minnesota with 27.2 seconds left and all but seal the win.

Johnson said of the last few minutes of the game. “I was just trying to be aggressive and make plays, but I got in foul trouble. I didn’t think we had any ball movement offensively, which kind of put us in a rut. Defensively, we were very uncharacteristic and we couldn’t get stops. We were forced to take tough shots and we just couldn’t pull it out.”

Hollins said of the last few minutes and the game as a whole, “Well, we turned it over and they got a couple of run outs after we missed shots, and they went inside to the big boys and they won the battle – got to give them credit. They took it to us and scored a couple of big buckets for them. They ran a play and (Kevin) Martin came off and threw it to the wing for a three. That was huge. We just didn’t have a lot of energy for most of the game and finally found a group with the energy, we got back, we had the lead, we were keeping the lead, then we make a mistake where they throw the ball to (Nikola) Pekovic and he just goes and scores and we just had no answer. But, you know, 10 turnovers in the second half, 18 for the game, 23 points. They had 51 rebounds. They had 13 offensive rebounds, so you know you can’t win having those kinds of deficits. But I like the men just for battling back. We got off to a really slow start. Starting at the beginning of the game, down 17-2 and we battled back, and we just didn’t have the mindset, the will, you know. It’s almost like they just had a little bit more energy than us on the whole night.”

Brook Lopez said of his play, a 10-point (5-14 FG), 5 rebound, 4 turnover performance, “It’s tough. I’m very disappointed in myself. And I felt that the team played hard, shot ourselves in the foot multiple times. I picked up the double foul. I didn’t take care of my responsibilities on defense down the line. I’m just very disappointed in myself tonight. Our bench came and gave great effort. D-Will, Joe played great, came out there and sustained it. And I came and just dropped it. I’m not happy about it.”

All five Minnesota starters scored in double figures, with Kevin Martin scoring 26 points, Andrew Wiggins had 17, Nikola Pekovic had 16, Ricky Rubio had 14, and Thaddeus Young had 10. Rubio had 12 assists, and Pekovic and Young had 11 rebounds each.

Ricky Rubio said afterwards, “It was a great win. This is a good team and we had a tough loss against Chicago at home, but I think we showed everybody what we want to do this year. We fight every game and try to win every game no matter who is in front of us. We want to play aggressive.”

Minnesota Head Coach Flip Saunders said of the game, “I told our guys – the main thing was we played hard for 48 minutes. We didn’t play smart all the time. I told our second unit, ‘you’re playing hard, but you’re killing us because we weren’t getting into our offense.’ When we got into our offense, we executed pretty well. I told our guys, ‘let’s get back in our bubble. Let’s do what we do and not worry about the crowd, the other team.’ The biggest thing was defensively we got aggressive. When Brooklyn made their run, I thought they just got aggressive with us. To our credit, we came back. We grounded it out. It’s nice to come in here and get a win. I was just happy with our competitiveness. and how hard we played. If we do that, the wins will take care of themselves.”



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