Recap – Timberwolves 111, Nets 81

Friday night's "Battle of the Kevin's" at Target Center (Photo credit: Timberwolves.com)

Friday night’s “Battle of the Kevin’s” at Target Center
(Photo credit: Timberwolves.com)

The Timberwolves were back on the Target Center floor Friday night and welcomed in a few familiar faces, as Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko returned to Minnesota with their Brooklyn Nets teammates.  Kirilenko was ruled out because of another problem with his back, while the Nets were also missing Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, and Jason Terry.  It hasn’t been a fun start to the season for Nets fans, that’s for sure.

There were no surprises or changes in the Pups’ starting five – Mr. Selena Gomez (I kid), Martin, Brewer, Love, and Pekovic.  The Nets threw out Shaun Livingston (who has been quite the story), Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, KG, and Reggie Evans.

Game Summary

Despite falling way behind (2-0), the Timberwolves pulled out Friday night’s game against a beaten down Brooklyn Nets team.  With an 11-6 lead going into the first timeout of the game, the Wolves woke up and played lights out basketball for the rest of the night.  This was a laugher by midway through the third quarter, with the Wolves winning by a cool 30 points.

First Half 

You really couldn’t ask for a better storybook opening, as KG won the tap and posted up Kevin Love in the paint.  He quickly turned around and hit the short jumper to give the Nets the 2-0 lead.  That concludes all Nets highlights from the first half, as the Timberwolves poured it on.  Despite two quick fouls and a trip to the bench for Ricky Rubio, the Pups were able to jump on the Nets early and often.  The game got off to a slow start offensively, as the Wolves held an 11-6 lead going into the first timeout of the game … after six-plus minutes of action.

At the end of the 1st quarter, the Wolves held a 30-14 lead, as Love hit a short jumper at the buzzer after JJ Barea drove to the basked as the clock wound down, lost control of the ball and flipped it behind his back, only to find Love’s hands.  Love finished the quarter with 9 points and 11 rebounds.  Again, we’re talking about the 1st quarter only.

The good times continued to roll for the Pups throughout much of the 2nd quarter.  Barea and Rubio both played well and ran Adelman’s offense.  Love and Nikola Pekovic were dominant in the paint.  Had the Wolves’ wings shot the ball a little bit better, the game would have looked even worse than the halftime score would suggest.  At the break, the Wolves held a 57-37 advantage at halftime.

Here are a few additional notes at half-time:

  • Kevin Martin’s shooting is a little off this past week.  At halftime, Martin was 2-11 from the field for 6 points
  • Corey Brewer also put up 11 shots in the first half, including 5 three pointers.  Honestly, that might be a bit too much
  • KG finished the half with 6 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 block – old-school KG in the house!

Second Half

We’re going to make this really easy – the Nets never made the game interesting and the Wolves blew away Brooklyn.  With the starters playing throughout the 4th quarter – more on this later – the Pups simply ran away.  They outscored the Nets 33-21 in the quarter and took a 90-58 lead into the 4th quarter.

After some Twitter pleading, Adelman finally went to his bench (read: doghouse) and put in Derrick Williams, Alexey Shved, and company.  Gorgui Dieng looked the most promising in the 4th quarter, blocking three shots and active on the offensive end of the floor as well (5 points & 3 rebounds).  The final score in this monstrosity of a game was 111-81.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Kevin Love – Dominant on the boards, Love finished with 17 and 16 in only 28 minutes of action.
  2. Nikola Pekovic – 15 & 7 for the big man, who really dominated the paint early and often.
  3. Kevin Garnett – This should go to Brewer, but just in case this is KG’s last game at Target Center, his 8 & 8 put him in our “Three Stars”.

Need another reason, here you go:

Key Takeaways

  • The Nets had a lot of injuries, but that was an effortless showing.  Jason Kidd probably won’t be fired this season, but he probably deserves to be.  This team has “Washington Redskins” written all over it – big contracts, no continuity … changes every single season.
  • Hopefully Kevin Martin’s shooting comes back real soon … as in, tomorrow in Houston soon.
  • The rest the starters received tonight should bode well for tomorrow’s game – thankfully they didn’t have to play big minutes going into a relatively big game tomorrow night (on NBA TV).

Minnesota Timberwolves 83 – Brooklyn Nets 91

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Photo Credit: Associated Press

The Wolves returned to the Target Center against the Nets Wednesday night and opened up with Rubio, Ridnour, Kirilenko, Williams, and Stiemsma.  Earlier in the day, the team announced that Pekovic and Shved would both miss the night’s festivities.  So, there’s that.  The Nets opened up with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Reggie Evans, and Brook Lopez.

There are slow starts in the NBA and then there are starts that look like the following: blocked shot, opponent basket, turnover, defensive foul, turnover, opponent basket, turnover, opponent basket, turnover … OK, I think you get the point and that is only the first two minutes of the 1st quarter for the Wolves.  Going into the first timeout of the game, the Nets led 16-7.

Unfortunately for the Wolves and their fans, the remainder of the first quarter didn’t turn out much better.  Every time I pay DWill a compliment he returns the favor with a sub-par game.  He looked completely “off” in the 1st quarter going 0-2 from the field and 1 rebound.  At the end of the quarter, the Nets held a 24-17 lead.

The bench mob, specifically Barea, Cunningham and 10 day contractor Chris Johnson, helped the Pups cut the lead to one point (26-25) over the first few minutes of the 2nd quarter.  Chris Johnson is about to end Lou Amundson’s stint with the Wolves I believe.  We’ll see what the FO decides to do here.

After a few minutes of back and forth basketball, the Nets started to come to life.  While never taking the lead, the Pups played an entertaining few minutes of basketball.  Unfortunately, that couldn’t be sustained over the final minutes of the period, as the Nets started to open things up, specifically with Andray Blatche (?!), Deron Williams, and then Brook Lopez at the very end of the half.

What has become all too common over the past few weeks, the Wolves failed to execute in the last few seconds of the quarter/half.  The Nets held an eleven point lead at the half, going into the locker room up 53-42.  Here are a couple halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:

  • It pains me to say this, but I’m not sure what the best course of action is for using Rubio right now.  Does it make sense to increase his minutes?  Should he take more nights off?  Why is this happening?!
  • The Pups starting five looked nothing short of awful in the first half.

After the 3rd quarter got off to a real slow start, Ridnour found AK47 for an alley-oop to bring the Pups back to within twelve points.  That seemed to ignite the team a bit, as over the next few minutes the Wolves chipped away into the lead, but once again could not get over the hump.  Terry Porter was called for a technical foul after biting off a bit more than he can chew with the referees.

Naturally, after typing up my halftime thoughts, Rubio came to life a bit in the quarter, creating a few steals and dishing out a few assists.  However, each time the Wolves had a chance to cut the lead to a single basket, the Nets made the necessary defensive play or the Wolves found a way to shoot themselves in the foot.  The Nets took a 68-62 lead with ninety seconds to play in the 3rd, and neither team was able to do anything more for the remainder of the quarter.

The early minutes of the 4th quarter led to the most intriguing moments of the game.  CJ Watson and JJ Barea went head to head to see who had the better acronym for a first name and the better overall skill set on the court.  In short, CJ Watson won the latter battle.  At one point, he scored nine straight points for the Nets.  While this was happening, JJ Barea decided to try to take the game over for the Wolves and failed, picking up several fouls and missing shots on the offensive end.  This is exactly when the Pups coaching staff needs to pull JJ off the court.  Rather than doing this however, Porter let him sit out there on the court with five fouls and a ton of time left in the game.

This leads me to another key take away from this evening.  After the whole CJ vs. JJ debacle, I think Terry Porter forgot that he was the head coach of the team and could make substitutions.  Right before Rubio was about to check in (for presumably Barea), JJ made a three pointer and Porter apparently called Rubio back to the bench.  Ricky never saw the court in the 4th quarter.  The same could be said for DWill.  While the latter had a poor 1st half, his 3rd quarter was average to above average and he deserved a few minutes in the 4th – if for nothing more than to get this kid on the court in “crucial” moments and the experience in closing games.

In the final few minutes, the Pups seemingly threw in the towel.  They didn’t bother fouling with under a minute to go and down by eight points.  Again, I’m not sure why Porter didn’t extend the game at least one more trip up and down the court.  I’m going to leave it with this: I don’t think Terry Porter is going to be putting this head coaching stint on his resume.  Despite the injury problems, there are a number of head scratchers seen each night.

The Nets walk out of Target Center a 91-83 winner, moving the Pups record down to 17-22 and falling further into the cellar of the Northwest division.  The Pups will now travel to the southeast with games in Washington DC and Charlotte on Friday and Saturday respectively.

Keys of the Game

  • Coaching – Since PJ Carlesimo has taken over the Nets head coaching duties, the Nets hold a 12-2 record.  Carlesimo made all of the right substitutions and moves tonight and as covered above, Terry Porter did not.
  • Guard Play – The Nets “big three” in the backcourt (Williams, Johnson, and Watson) combined for 50 points, 13 assists, and 12 rebounds.  The Pups “big three” of Rubio, Ridnour, and Barea combined for 29 points, 17 assists, and 9 rebounds.  I’m not sure that disparity really suggests how one-sided this felt all evening.
  • Free Throws – While the Wolves have been one of the best teams in the NBA in getting to the FT line, they failed miserably to do so in Wednesday’s game.  Six attempts in the entire game (and only making four of them) lends itself to blaming the Wolves players on the court, the scheme the team is running (too many jumpers & three pointers), as well as some blame on the officiating crew.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Deron Williams – 18, 8, and 6 to go with 3 steals in over 30 minutes of action tonight for the Nets PG.  This was predictable, given the preview we put together for tonight’s game.
  2. CJ Watson – Not only did he have a great offensive game going tonight, he completely took JJ Barea out of the game by getting him rattled, which led to a string of bad decisions on JJ’s front.
  3. Brook Lopez – A very efficient 22 points and 7 rebounds, shooting 10-16 from the field in just 26 minutes.  Lopez dominated Stiemsma early and often.

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!