Wolves Bury Nets With Fierce Fourth Quarter Comeback
Little by little, the Timberwolves kept chipping away.
There was no quit on Minnesota’s roster during Monday’s improbable comeback in Brooklyn. The Wolves turned a 22-point deficit into a 107-96 victory at the brand new Barclays Center, flipping the switch in the fourth quarter and possession by possession changing the complexion of a game thoroughly dominated by the Nets for three quarters.
But Minnesota—playing in back-to-backs and coming off a disappointing 24-turnover loss in Toronto the night before—found a way to respond. The result was the biggest comeback in franchise history since overcoming a 24-point deficit against Dallas on Jan. 17, 1998.
Minnesota outscored Brooklyn 32-10 in the fourth, including an 11-0 run to end it after the two teams were tied 96-96 late.
“Coach said at a timeout to take it easy and take it one point at a time,” guard JJ Barea said. “We did a good job at chipping away. I knew when the game got close it would get harder for them on offense.”
For three quarters, offense wasn’t an issue for the Nets.
Brooklyn came out firing and had little trouble finding the basket—particularly from 3-point range. The Nets shot 60 percent from the field through most of the first 36 minutes, including 68 percent from behind the arc. Between Keith Bogans and Joe Johnson, Brooklyn’s starting shooting guard and small forward combination hit 6-of-9 3-pointers in the game, while Deron Williams hit three of his own and C.J. Watson was 2-for-4 off the bench.
It was a Williams 3-pointer with 9:36 left in the third quarter that gave Brooklyn its biggest lead—22 points—early in the second half.
At times it seemed like the Nets couldn’t miss, and despite Minnesota hovering around 49 percent shooting throughout the game they trailed by double-digits the entire third quarter. Minnesota trailed 86-75 heading into the fourth.
That’s when Minnesota took over.
Coach Rick Adelman said the Nets were handling the Timberwolves with their pick-and-rolls, so he made a lineup adjustment in the fourth. The Wolves rolled out a smaller lineup, and combinations of JJ Barea, Alexey Shved, Chase Budinger, Andrei Kirilenko, Dante Cunningham and Nikola Pekovic late in the game stifled Brooklyn offensively and put together the team’s biggest comeback in 14 years.
It was a group effort. Kirilenko did it all on both ends of the floor, sparking energy offensively to the tune of 16 points and six assists, and on the defensive end he compiled four blocks and a steal. He and Dante Cunningham had 10 and 11 rebounds, respectively, accounting for 21 of the team’s 46 boards on the night. Cunningham finished with 11 points and 11 boards, three of which came on the offensive glass in pivotal moments in the fourth that turned into six Minnesota points.
The paint is where the game changed. Minnesota finished with a 62-34 advantage in the paint, which included a runner by Alexey Shved with 2:35 left to give Minnesota the lead for good at 98-96 and a subsequent basket by Pekovic that extended the lead to four.
“They were getting everything they wanted in the first half,” Budinger said. “They were pushing us around, bullying us. So we came into halftime and coach gave us a good speech and we just brought it in the second half, a lot of energy, and we weren’t going to let them bully us anymore. That’s what happened. We started bullying them.”
If Pekovic, Cunningham and Kirilenko were the bullies in the paint, Budinger and Shved were their support on the perimeter. Shved hit two big 3-pointers in the fourth, both coming early in the frame with the Wolves trying to overcome an 11-point deficit. His first made it an eight-point game at 88-80, and his second brought Minnesota to within two at 92-90. Just before that, Budinger connected from distance with 7:45 left in the fourth—thanks to a nice crossover and feed from Shved—that made it 92-87.
“Once we started to bring it back, I thought we got a lot of confidence,” Budinger said. “A lot of players started stepping up, making shots, and we kept pushing through.”
For three quarters, the Nets looked in control and poised to go 2-0 on the season. The Wolves, coming off that tough loss in Toronto, looked like they’d remain winless on the road.
But after that fourth quarter, Minnesota will go down in history as the first road team to beat the Nets at the Barclays center.
“The first half was a continuation of last game,” Kirilenko said. “We had a lack of focus. But in the second half, we just talked to each other and did not worry about the losing quarter. We had to just improve our game because since the beginning of the season we had good stretches and bad stretches, but we have to stay in the game with consistency.”
Adelman said the difference was being the aggressor in every part of the game. Once the Wolves started making it tough on the Nets, things began to change.
“It was just a terrific win,” Adelman said. “They shot it so well for three quarters, and we just kept talking about getting tougher down the stretch. We had to get stops at the start of the fourth quarter. We played with a real edge about us in that fourth quarter, and it just turned the whole thing around.”