Shootaround Access: Wolves vs. Nets
It’s been more than two months since the Minnesota Timberwolves handed the newly-relocated Brooklyn Nets their first ever loss at Barclays Center on Nov. 5, a game in which the Wolves trailed by 22 points before second half comeback sealed the victory.
As the Wolves and Nets prepare to face one another for the final time in 2012-13 tonight at Target Center, both teams remember what transpired that night in New York. And both understand there are implications that come along with that game in tonight’s matchup.
“This is a team we owe,” Nets guard Joe Johnson said. “They came into the Barclays Center and got a win. So we’ve got to return the favor. We know it’s not going to be easy—they’ve probably been playing some pretty good basketball. We’re not going to take anything for granted, try to do what the gameplan says and try to get a win.”
Both teams are in different situations than they were in the first week of the season. Minnesota, of course, has undergone a myriad of roster changes due to constant injuries that continue to hamper the team. Of the 13 Timberwolves players who dressed in that game, six are either injured or no longer with the club. Three of their four top scorers from the Nov. 5 contest—Nikola Pekovic (21), Chase Budinger (16) and Alexey Shved (10)—are not expected to play tonight.
Meanwhile, the Nets have restructured their coaching situation, ousting Avery Johnson in favor of P.J. Carelsimo in December. Since the move, the Nets are 11-2 and are currently winners of nine of their last 10.
Part of what has made the Nets successful in the past four weeks is an increased sense of familiarity. They traded for Johnson, a six-time All-Star, during the summer and in the early parts of the season he and three-time All-Star Deron Williams—along with the Nets’ front court—began working on meshing together and getting used to one another’s tendencies.
Carlesimo said as the minutes continue to add up, the team as a whole has really began to work well together.
“So many other guys are playing well and they’ve played well collectively—it’s helped Joe,” Carlesimo said. “[Williams and Johnson] are always going to be, every time we play a game, they’re going to be the focus of the other team’s defense. But it’s tough to double them and then spend much time on them as teams feel they need to do to control them when you have other people stepping up.”
That will be a concern for the Wolves tonight at Target Center: Minnesota must balance that All-Star back court and the production Brooklyn has received from Gerald Wallace, Brook Lopez and Reggie Evans up front.
That, and the Wolves know they’ll be dealing with the memories and motivation that go along with their comeback win in November.
“We know we kind of went in there and stole one from them,” center Greg Stiemsma said. “They know it, and since their coaching change they’ve been playing well. On both sides of the floor they’ve improved. We know with our situation, we’re not going to make excuses. We don’t expect them to come in and take it easy on us at all. So we’re just going to have to match their intensity for the full 48 and put a good game together.”
Wolves guard J.J. Barea said the comeback was a great game to be part of, but it was a long time ago. A lot has changed since then on both sides, and Minnesota will be putting out a completely different starting lineup and a collection of different rotations and new faces compared to their last go-around.
But the bottom line for Brooklyn is splitting this season series and coming out with a win—regardless of who Minnesota has on the floor.
“It’s definitely still in our minds,” Williams said. “It will definitely play a factor.”