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Timberwolves game a test for Nets' hopes of big season

Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

The first time the Nets played the Timberwolves this season it was an unmitigated disaster. Up by 22 with 9:36 in the third, the Nets went into a deep spiral, losing by 11. To make matters worse, Mikhail Prokhorov was on hand to watch two Russians, Andrei Kirilenko and rookie Alexei Shved shred (yeah, I said it) their defense. It was debilitating, stunning and, truth be told, the first time ownership began to wonder if Avery Johnson was the guy.

Minnesota won that game without stars Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, but the Timberwolves could have a difficult time continuing their success against the Nets Wednesday. Love will miss his tenth straight game, Malcolm Lee and Chase Budinger are also out and Nikola Pekovic and Shved could both sit for a third consecutive contest. Not a good look. They are 11-6 at home.

The Timberwolves have gone 5-12 in their last 17, and they've averaged 89.6 points and allowed 100.3 while dropping six of seven, including their last game to the Hawks Monday night. Kirilenko, who the Nets pursued (too) late in the off-season is having a typical AK-47 season, missing a few games but filling the stat sheet, with 13.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and playing good defense. (He has a $10 million player option for next season).

Rubio on the other hand is still suffering the effects of a torn ACL. In the 13 games he's played since returning (three starts), he's averaging only 4.2 points and 4.9 assists, shooting a miserable 23.1 (not a typo) percent overall and has yet to make a three. He is, of course, still capable of blowing your mind with a pass.

The Nets are healthy but down to 12 players. Tyshawn Taylor and Toko Shengelia are in Springfield where they will play Thursday and Damion James is back in Bakersfield. Don't look for the Nets to decide on a return date for T&T or a replacement for DJ until their road trip is done.

Oh yeah, it's a classic trap game, just like the first one. So beware.