Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Brooklyn Nets, 1/23/13

shvedprokhorovakSetting the stage:

The Timberwolves host the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night, returning to Target Center after a very disappointing loss to the Atlanta Hawks on MLK Day.  After building an 18 point lead, the Pups slowly but surely fell apart at the seams again in the second half.  The loss moved the team to 17-21 on the season.  If you want to look for a positive, look towards a decent performance from Derrick Williams and decent minutes from our 10 day contractors.

The Nets come into Wednesday’s tilt off of a nice win at MSG against the Knicks on Monday, moving the team to 25-16 on the season and just one game behind the division leading Knicks.  Hopefully, the Wolves will turn the tide and be able to match the performance they put forth earlier this year in Brooklyn, when they beat the Nets 107-96.

For this preview, I have reached out to a lifetime sufferer of being a Nets fan and close friend of mine, David Corsaro.  David has been following the Nets closely for over two decades now and has seen the ups and downs and it is safe to say there were many more downs.  Similar to our Friday night previews, I wanted to get David’s perspective on a few key storylines revolving around the Nets.

Nets Question #1 for David:

I downgraded Deron Williams after the Olympics and he hasn’t necessarily proven me wrong.  I’m not sure he takes the NBA life as seriously as many other superstars.  Does he have enough “fire” in him to will a team to a championship or is he better suited as a second banana?

David:

When Jason Kidd came to the Nets several years ago, he was a superstar.  He brought out a level of play in Kenyon Martin, Kerry Kittle and Richard Jefferson that even THEY didn’t know they had.  Deron does not have that same level of “fire” as you put it, but he knows how to play the position very well.  He is truly the quarterback of this team…and the other players recognize that and respect him for it.  Deron is someone who could take the last shot (and I would have total confidence in him) or someone who could dish the last shot (and if that other player missed, I would not fault Williams for not taking it….I trust him that it was the right play.)  Sure I would love to see more of that “We are NOT losing this game” face from Deron Williams, but in a league where there are only a small handful of great point guards, I think Deron is a key piece to a championship team.

 

Nets Question #2 for David:

I was vehemently against David Kahn signing Andray Blatche this past offseason.  Was I wrong again on this one or are there still character/knucklehead concerns?  How would you grade his performance thus far this season?

David:

This team lives each day with a million questions around it.  Can Lopez stay healthy?  Is Johnson past his prime?  Has Blatche entered the “Tyson Zone? (That one is for you John.)  And I don’t think that question will ever really go away.  But I do think he has been a solid contributor on the court and considering what we need him for (energy off the bench, a solid shooter who can be a first or fourth option on the court, etc).

I have been very happy with him.  His scoring has been exactly what I would expect / want.  He is grabbing the boards that we need him to (even at a slightly higher rate than his career average, especially on the offensive side.)  It sounds cliché, but if Blatche could keep himself out of trouble and maintain what he has been doing for us, it will be an excellent signing.

 

Nets Question #3 for David:

Can the Nets hold on to one of the top seeds in the East or are they too fragile (Lopez, Wallace)?  What are your expectations come playoff time and how far can this team go?

David:

My biggest question about this team is “Are they good enough to compete deep into the playoffs or will the rest of the league begin to make adjustments and expose certain flaws?”  Brook Lopez is playing the best basketball of his career and being the player we all hoped he would be.  But will he stay healthy or will teams begin to realize the threat he is and play him tighter?  Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace are playing better than expected but can they keep up the energy for 82 games?  Can Johnson return to the 21 PPG player that he once was without taking points away from anyone else? (which I believe he can)

The “Fan” in me says I want them as a 2-3 seed in the playoffs and there is no reason why we can’t play Miami in the ECF.  However, the realist in me says that they are a 4-5 seed and if we make it to the second round, I should consider this year a good step towards building a real championship team next year.

I want to thank David for answering a few questions on Nets and providing some perspective on the Pups opponent.  You can follow David on Twitter or check out this web site.  (Yes, he is also a magician … and a good one at that.)

Player to watch:

Joe Johnson – Johnson is having a fantastic month of January, averaging just under 20ppg and clearly shooting much better than he did earlier in the season.  Wolves’ fans shouldn’t be surprised if this continues Wednesday night, given the lack of size to match-up against Johnson whatsoever.  Alexey Shved practiced with the team on Tuesday, but this could be a nightmare match-up for the rookie.

Match-up to watch:

Ricky Rubio vs. Deron Williams.  Deron put up 18 points and 13 assists earlier this season against the Pups, while Rubio was still rehabbing his knee.  Ricky is coming off a poor performance on Monday night, so it will be interesting to see if he can “bounce back”.  Given all of the injuries, this is clearly the match-up to keep an eye on and the marquee match-up.

Predictions:

I can’t see the Wolves pulling this one out.  (Again, you can just call me “The Cooler” at this point, because I have zero ability to predict what Wolves team shows up night to night.)

Final score prediction: Minnesota Timberwolves 92, Brooklyn Nets 104

Three stars of the game predictions:

  1. Joe Johnson
  2. Brook Lopez
  3. Derrick Williams

Let’s go Wolves!