The Skinny: Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez combined to score the first 18 Nets’ points. The Timberwolves had more turnovers than points five minutes into the game, allowing the Nets to start the contest on a 14-2 run. Brooklyn led by as many as 12 but cooled off a bit, leading by seven after one.
Minnesota’s second unit infused the team with energy and cut the Nets’ lead to one in the opening minutes of the second quarter. After settling in, Andray Blatche and the “Bench Mob” finally found their offensive groove, giving the Nets a nine-point lead. Deron Williams and Minnesota’s Chris Johnson kept the offensive pace going, with Williams scoring nine straight Nets’ points late in the quarter. Brooklyn increased its lead to 11 at the break.
The Nets went up 14 to start the second half, but the Timberwolves chipped away as part of a 10-1 run to get back within five. Brooklyn didn’t hit on a field goal for a five-minute stretch, but Lopez provided a spark of offense to help the Nets go back up nine. Minnesota again made another small run to trail by just six after three.
It was a two-point game early in the fourth, but nine straight points from C.J. Watson gave the Nets some breathing room. A 6-0 Timberwolves run got the game back within three, but Joe Johnson hit a three-pointer on cue to put the Nets back up six. Deron Williams added a dagger three-pointer several possessions later to put the Nets up 10 to ice the game.
High Scorers: Lopez led all scorers with 22 points on 10-of-16 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds. For the Timberwolves, Andrei Kirilenko led the way with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting.
Key Stats: The stats categories for the teams looked awfully similar except for one category: rebounding. The Nets held a 45-37 advantage on the boards, including a 14-6 lead on the offensive glass.
Who Was Hot: Joe Johnson and Deron Williams each scored 18 points. Watson was clutch in the fourth quarter and finished with 14 points on 6-of-8 from the field. Dante Cunningham and Chris Johnson combined for 12-of-23 shooting and 26 points off the bench for the Timberwolves.
Who Was Not: Keith Bogans and Jerry Stackhouse – normally sharpshooters from the outside – were a combined 0-of-7 from the field. Greg Steimsma had more fouls (three) than points (two) and had a -11 rating for the game.
Fun Fact: Brooklyn has held 27 of their first 44 opponents under 100 points in regulation and is 22-5 in those games. Additionally, the Nets are 15-1 when holding an opponent under 90 points this season.
The Timberwolves gave the Brooklyn Nets their first loss since the move from New Jersey by overcoming a 22-point lead Nov. 5.
Nets’ players said before the game that they were looking to avenge that loss. But it definitely wasn’t that easy in this one, even with Minnesota playing severely shorthanded.
Though the Nets never trailed, they almost blew leads of 12 and 14 points. Another poor third quarter (6-of-20 shooting for 15 points) is troubling. Luckily, the Timberwolves – the worst scoring team in third quarters this season at 21.7 points per game – only managed 20 points in the frame.
Despite some lapses, the Nets started off the second half with a win, which is the most important takeaway from this game. It marks the first win in Minnesota since November, 2002 – ending a stretch of eight straight losses.
The “Big Three” of Lopez, Williams and Johnson willed the team to this victory. Lopez keeps showing why he’s deserving of an All-Star selection, which will be announced Thursday evening.
Brooklyn (26-16) heads to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies Friday night. The 8 p.m. game will be televised on the YES Network.
Jim Mancari is a Contributor to SNYNets.com. Follow him on Twitter @JMMancari.