GameDay Blog: Wolves vs. Nets - Jan. 23, 2013

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Final: That's the ballgame from Target Center tonight, as the Nets split the season series with the Wolves with a 91-83 win. The Wolves consistently cut the lead to four or five points, but Brooklyn always found a way to extend the lead. The last dagger was a 3-pointer by Deron Williams with 1:15 to play. Minnesota got 15 from AK, 14 from DC, 13 from Ridnour, 12 from Johnson and 11 from Barea on the night. For the Nets, Brook Lopez led all scorers with 22, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson each had 18 and C.J. Watson had 14. Follow along with Timberwolves.com all night for updates and analysis, photos, postgame interviews and game highlights. BKN 91, MIN 83

Q4 2:20: The Wolves can't crack into the Nets' lead past four points, but they won't let Brooklyn pull away, either. J.J. Barea just hit a big 3-pointer from the wing that makes it a five-point game with 2:20 to play. Barea has had a tough half foul-wise, but he's got seven assists to go along with 11 points. BKN 82, MIN 77

Q4 5:46: Really nice give and go from AK to Johnson and back to AK for the hoop moments ago. Minnesota keeps hanging around despite Brooklyn not letting them get to within four. But the Wolves continue to battle back when the Nets push it to seven or nine, and they're still within striking distance with 5:46 to play. BKN 77, MIN 72

Q4 8:58: Wolves getting into a little foul trouble here. J.J. Barea has picked up a pair of fouls quickly here, and the Wolves have three already in quarter just three minutes in. Minnesota has cut it to four here, but the Nets continue to hold onto their lead. Barea has three fouls but remains in the game after the timeout. BKN 72, MIN 68

End Q3: Minnesota kept it close down the stretch in the third, and they're trailing by six as we head to the fourth. Derrick Williams was the story of the third, getting aggressive and putting up nine points in the frame after starting 0-for-5 from the field. The Wolves are holding the Nets to 43 percent shooting after Brooklyn shot just 6-of-20 from the field in the third. Minnesota opens up the fourth with Barea, Gelebale, AK, DC and Chris Johnson on the floor. BKN 68, MIN 62

Q3 2:50: Derrick Williams started off the game shooting 0-for-5 from the field, but he has come alive here in the third and has helped keep the Wolves within striking distance. D-Will has hit his last four shots, including a goal tend call on Brook Lopez, and he now has nine points to go along with five rebounds. With the Rising Stars Challenge selection coming up, Williams does have an opportunity to be picked again this year. But he needs to put together consistent minutes like he's doing right now in the third quarter to help his odds. BKN 66, MIN 59

Q3 8:14: We're about four minutes into the third quarter, and the Nets continue to hold a nine-point lead after extending their advantage to a game-high 14 points early on. Wolves coach Terry Porter just received a technical, which the Nets converted with a Deron Williams shot from the line, but Minnesota continues to battle here and has the ball. BKN 57, MIN 48

Halftime: The Wolves trailed by as many as 12 and cut the lead to as few as 1 (trailed by a single possession three times) in the first half, but the Nets went on a run to end the half and have made it an 11-point game. The surprise tonight is again Chris Johnson, who has 10 points to lead the Wolves on 5-of-7 shooting. He's a guy who is providing energy on the offensive end every time he steps on the court, and it's welcomed by the Wolves. Minnesota is shooting 48 percent from the field to Brooklyn's 50, but the Nets do have seven more field goal attempts and that's adding to the disparity on the scoreboard. AK has nine points, Dante Cunningham has six off the bench and Luke Ridnour has five. For the Nets, Brook Lopez has 14, Deron Williams has 11 and Joe Johnson has eight. Williams, by the way, had two points midway through the second before lighting up the scoreboard for nine down the stretch. BKN 53, MIN 42

Q2 2:13: We know one thing about Chris Johnson--he has a gift for dunking. The Wolves continue to find him down low, and he continues to produce. He currently is tied with Brook Lopez with a game-high 10 points, and he's 5-of-7 from the field. He put together back-to-back dunks on nice feeds from Andrei Kirilenko. Meanwhile, Kirilenko just scored and drew the foul, putting himself on the line. He made the free throw, cutting the Nets' lead to 45-38. BKN 45, MIN 38

Q2 4:55: Eight different Wolves players have scored so far to make up the Wolves' 29 points, led by six from Cunningham and Kirilenko. The Nets have gone on a little run here, extending the lead back up to seven. Andray Blatch has come off the bench and provided a nice little spark. He's got seven points in nine minutes so far for the Nets. BKN 36, MIN 29

Q2 8:36: Chris Johnson is just doing his thing right now. He's got four points in three minutes, including a huge alley-oop jam from J.J. Barea and an offensive rebound he put back for 2. Really nice change of pace, lots of athleticism from this guy. Minnesota on an 8-2 run that cuts the lead to 1 here early in the second. BKN 26, MIN 25

End Q1: Pretty good rebound for the Wolves in that first quarter after falling behind 14-2 right out of the gate. They cut the lead to seven as we head into the second thanks in part to shoring up their defense--Brooklyn cooled off after starting 7-of-9 from the field to the tune of 4-of-10 the rest of the way, and Minnesota forced five turnovers in the final eight minutes. Wolves still need to figure out how to handle the points in the paint, and to help with the size disadvantage tonight would be a good night to get out and running in the transition game. Chris Johnson checking in for the Wolves to start the second, and AK is also returning. BKN 24, MIN 19

Q1 3:08: Well, we know where Wolves fans stand with Kris Humphries. The former Hopkins standout and University of Minnesota forward got a nice round of boos when he entered the game moments ago for Brooklyn. I'd assume it's because of the Kardashian fiasco, but Wolves fans aren't usually too friendly to guys who leave the U early (ask Joel Przybilla). As we come out of a timeout, we've got our first J.J. Barea and Mickael Gelabale sightings of the night, playing with Ridnour, D-Will and DC. BKN 20, MIN 13

Q1 5:47: Brooklyn came out taking advantage of the size mismatches that we talked about pregame, and as a result they've led by as many as 12 and jumped out to a 14-2 lead. Minnesota is shooting 3-of-9 from the field, while the Nets are hitting at a 7-of-9 clip and are getting production from Brook Lopez down low and Joe Johnson on the perimeter. Lopez already has 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting, and he is benefiting from Greg Stiemsma already getting into foul trouble with two. Stiemsma headed to the bench as Dante Cunningham checked in. BKN 16, MIN 7

Starters:
Nets:
PG-Deron Williams, SG-Joe Johnson, SF-Gerald Wallace, PF-Reggie Evans, C-Brook Lopez

Wolves: PG-Ricky Rubio, SG-Luke Ridnour, SF-Andrei Kirilenko, PF-Derrick Williams, C-Greg Stiemsma

Pregame 6:15 PM: Thinking back to the last time the Wolves played, so many people have gone down with injuries and so many roster moves have been made. Think about some of the players who were getting playing time during that game—Brandon Roy started and Chase Budinger came off the bench—plus Will Conroy was still on the roster. A lot has changed in the past 2 1/2 months. Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo acknowledged that during pregame at Target Center, saying the Nets went through some injury woes last year but the Wolves are going through an extreme scenario.

"I think Terry [Porter] is doing an excellent job with the players. You talk about Band-Aids. It's so many guys—not just injuries, it's major injuries to some of their best players," Carlesimo said. "It's been since Day 1. When we played them for the first time, I can't remember who was in uniform then. If you look at the box score from game to game, it's incredible so many guys have had to fill in."

That last game did not include Gerald Wallace who missed six games in the early part of the season including the Wolves game. His presence tonight makes for an interesting dynamic defensively for Minnesota, which will have three point guards in Ricky Rubio, Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea rotating in the back court along with likely some minutes from Mickael Gelabale at the 2-guard spot. Porter said it's not an easy guard with Wallace, Johnson and Williams on the perimeter, because similar to their matchup with Miami it's hard to guard multiple wing players with that size. With the Heat, Minnesota had trouble with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, and that included having 6-foot-6 Shved available.

Porter said the Wolves will start Kirilenko on Wallace.

"I don't think we're going to move him around much just because then you have to put Luke on, who are you going to put Luke on?" Porter said. "That's the problem. You can't move them around. And the last time we faced these guys we had Chase, we had Brandon. It wasn't much of a problem for us. Just the 1 position, the point guard position. But playing Luke at the 2, and Ricky might have to play 2, Gelabale. We'll have to see how the game plays out."

Look for that defensive assignment positioning throughout the game tonight and see if the Wolves make any adjustments in how they approach the Nets.

Pregame 3:45 PM: Wolves guard J.J. Barea was candid when talking about the Timberwolves’ small back court in regard to the All-Star tandem they’ll see tonight with Nets point guard Deron Williams and shooting guard Joe Johnson. Yes, the Wolves will give up size in this matchup as the 6-foot-8 Johnson has size and speed to go along with his versatile game. But it’s not anything the Wolves haven’t been challenged with before.

“I think we’re used to it by now,” Barea said. “So we have to just see what we can do and use it to our advantage on the offensive end. We’re a little quicker, too. So we’ll see how that goes tonight.”

The Wolves continuously dealt with difficult matchups on the offensive end last year, going through a large chunk of the season in which a combination of Barea, Luke Ridnour and Ricky Rubio made up the two back court positions at the same time. They give up size (Rubio is the tallest at 6-foot-4), but Rubio is a strong facilitator, Ridnour is the team’s best spot-up shooter and Barea is fearless enough to attack the basket on anyone.

The problem sometimes comes on the defensive end, which Williams said the Nets can use to their advantage.

“It’s definitely a tough matchup I think for them,” Williams said. “Especially with Joe. Who is going to guard Joe?”

The Wolves do have the benefit of a crafty wing defender Andrei Kirilenko, who can shift over and takes defensive assignments at the two-guard spot. The challenge is containing Gerald Wallace at small forward—if Kirilenko takes Johnson, who will handle the 6-foot-7 Wallace? Wolves coach T.R. Dunn said in our podcast conversation that was still an issue the team was pondering.

Wallace has missed time this season, including a six-game stretch that included the Minnesota game on Nov. 5, and Brook Lopez said that does make a difference when he’s not available.

“Obviously Joe and Deron do what they do, but we definitely miss Gerald when he doesn’t play,” Lopez said. “He brings a lot of intangibles, he brings huge energy and he’s definitely a big lift for us.”

Wolves center Greg Stiemsma said the best way for the Wolves to combat the size disparity is to push tempo and keep the ball in motion.

“We’re going to have to get up and down, take advantage of smart opportunities,” Stiemsma said. “And we have to make shots. When it comes down to it, it’s that simple.”

Pregame 3:15 PM: Greetings from Target Center, where the Timberwolves and Nets will meet tonight at 7 p.m. in their first matchup since the Wolves’ 22-point comeback on Nov. 5 at the Barclays Center. A lot has changed since then for both team, particularly the Nets’ coaching change from Avery Johnson to P.J. Carlesimo and the Wolves’ constantly evolving injury situation.

Tonight the Wolves have an opportunity to pick up a victory at home before departing for two winnable road games at Charlotte and Washington on Friday and Saturday—two games they need to win as they stay afloat in the Western Conference playoff race. They are currently 2 ½ games behind Utah and in the 10th spot in the West, and picking up a victory tonight would go a long way toward giving the team confidence as they head on the road.

“It feels like now at this point in the season every game is so important,” center Greg Stiemsma said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re facing, where we’re at. We know we’ve got to step up on the floor and have the mentality that we have to win the game.”

The Wolves will be without center Nikola Pekovic (right quad contusion) again tonight as well as guard Alexey Shved (sprained left ankle). That means Stiemsma is projected to be in the starting lineup once again as he’s been for the past two games. Derrick Williams will likely stay in the starting power forward spot.

More to come from Target Center throughout the night, including pregame content and in-game updates.

Here are some pregame news and notes as we near tipoff tonight at Target Center:

  • The Wolves have the advantage in the all-time series 25-19 and are 17-4 at home, including having won eight straight meetings at Target Center. Minnesota came back from a 22-point, third-quarter deficit to defeat the Nets, 107-96, in Brooklyn in the teams' first meeting this year.


  • The Wolves come into tonight sitting in the 10th position in the Western Conference, 2.5 games behind Houston and 1.0 game back of Portland. Minnesota is 11-6 at Target Center this season and has 7 of its next 9 games at home. The Wolves are 8-0 this season when scoring 100+ points.


  • The Wolves' 22-point comeback vs. Brooklyn on Nov. 5 marked the 4th-largest deficit overcome to win in club history (10th time coming back from 20+ points down), and the biggest since making up a 24-point spread at Dallas on Jan. 17, 1998 (winning 113-110 in OT).


  • The Wolves have shot 46.9% (vs. HOU) and 48.6% (at ATL) respectively in their last two games, marking the second time this season that the Wolves have shot +45.0% in consecutive outings.


  • The Wolves rank 5th in the NBA in free throw attempts per game (25.9) and have allowed the 3rd fewest free throw attempts (19.7). Minnesota has attempted 30+ FTs in a game 14 times this season and allowed less than 20 FTs in a game 16 times.


  • Andrei Kirilenko registered his seventh double-double and third 20-pt/10-reb game of the season Saturday vs. Houston with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Kirilenko has swiped a steal in six straight games and is averaging 2.5 spg over that span. Kirilenko recently became just the 15th player in NBA history to register 2,000+ assists, 1,000+ steals and 1,000+ blocks in a career.


  • Luke Ridnour has scored in double-digits in nine of his last 10 games (21 of his last 26 games), averaging 13.9 points over that stretch. Scored a team- and season-high 21 points Jan. 17 vs. the Clippers. Is the only Wolves player to start all 38 games this season.


  • J.J. Barea led the Wolves in scoring in three consecutive games last week and has scored in double figures in 19 of the last 22 games. Averaging 13.0 points over his last five games. Barea is a team-leading +39 when on the floor this season.


  • Ricky Rubio has started the last three games, averaging 27.7 minutes per game, including a season-high 30 in Saturday's win over Houston. Has recorded six assists in four straight games.


  • Derrick Williams has started the last three games, averaging 12.7 points and 5.3 rebounds in 32.3 minutes per game.


  • Brooklyn has won 11 of 13 games since P.J. Carlesimo took over as interim head coach. A win tonight would improve Carlesimo's record to 12-2, the second best start for a coach in franchise history (Frank; 13-0).


  • The Nets have held 26 of their first 41 opponents under 100 points in regulation and are 21-5 in those games. Additionally, Brooklyn is 4-1 when holding an opponent under 90 points this season and 4-0 when an opponent fails to hit 80.


  • Brook Lopez is the only the player in the NBA averaging at least 18.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks this season. Among centers, Lopez is first in the NBA in scoring at 18.5 ppg.


  • Starting guard Joe Johnson totaled 25 points in Brooklyn's win at New York on Monday and is averaging 19.8 points over his last five games, scoring 20+ points three times over that stretch.


  • The Nets are 8-1 this season when tonight's projected starting five of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Reggie Evans and Brook Lopez start the game together.



  • For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter, and join the conversation at WolvesNation.com.