It doesn't get any easier. After a debilitating loss against the Bobcats on Wednesday, Brooklyn will once again look to build some momentum. Between injuries, terrible play & the dreams of challenging the Heat & Pacers for Eastern Conference supremacy deferred (at least for the moment), the Nets are gonna have to fight to make it back to respectability.
The opponent Friday night will be the Minnesota Timberwolves. It seemed like every year the past couple of seasons, Minnesota was picked as "the team" to break out and compete for the playoffs. However, injuries stopped them in their tracks each time. This year, it looks like everything is coming together for this season for the Wolves & they're off to a nice start. After this game, the schedule becomes hellish for 'Sota. Their next seven games: at Houston (second night of a back-to-back), at Indiana, Denver, at Dallas, at Oklahoma City (second night of a back-to-back), San Antonio, and Miami. If they can come out of that stretch with a winning record, it'll do wonders to the team and fanbase's confidence.
The season so far
What's the story for these two? Let's take a look:
Offensive Rebounding percentage
Free throw rate
Effective Field Goal percentage
Opponent Effective Field Goal percentage
To fully grasp how awful the defense was against Charlotte, you have to take into account Charlotte's offense going into the contest. Al Jefferson is still out due to an ankle injury, Kemba Walker had been struggling from the field, and on the whole the Cats were near the bottom in offensive efficiency and effective field goal percentage. How bad has this defense been? Here's Reed Wallach to explain:
Looking at the big picture, not one stat spins their D in the positive direction. They have a defensive rating of 107.5, which is sixth worst in the entire league. The Nets made a lot of noise in training camp about wanting to be an outstanding defensive team, and with KG* in the fold, they were expected to compete. They have have had decent but not so great players hit shots at will. Kemba Walker did it last night, Wesley Matthews Monday night, and Marcus Thornton last Wednesday.
It gets worse. The Nets have forced 169 turnovers this season, seventh worst in the league. Young, athletic clubs have exposed them for their lack of speed and the Nets have looked lethargic in comparison.
*What he was supposed to bring defensively is why I thought he'd be team MVP. You should also note that I figured Brooklyn would hit their rough patch in February during their seven game road trip. Sigh.
Deron Williams sprained his ankle (again) and probably won't be playing in this game. Andrei Kirilenko probably won't be making his return to the Target Center and no word on Brook Lopez as of this writing. Shaun Livingston should be starting again & he's been the only worthwhile thing about this bunch this year.
Minnesota is coming off a tough loss against the Clippers at home on Wednesday, but have been pretty solid on the whole. Love is the headliner (more on him in a minute), but Kevin Martin has been just as excellent on offense. The nine year vet has earned a rep of being one of the most efficient players in the league and this season has been no exception. He's averaging close to 24 points a night on a True Shooting percentage of 57.8 (boosted by career highs in free throw and three point percentage). Along with Love and Martin has been the passing of Ricky Rubio. He still can't shoot near the rim, but his nine assists (good for third in the league) have helped steady this offense. The second unit isn't that strong for Minnesota, but that probably won't affect them in this game as Brooklyn doesn't have anyone that draws fouls at the rate Brook Lopez does.
Player to Watch: Kevin Love
It seems hysterical to think about now, but there was actual debate as to whether Minnesota should keep either Al Jefferson or Love. Jefferson was eventually traded to Utah and Love was inserted into the starting lineup. Despite the occasional trade demand and inquiry from other teams, Love has maintained his excellent play. Hes got plenty of range and lives behind the three point line (second in attempts from deep). He hasn't shot as well from deep as he did in his breakout year (2010-2011), but is respectable enough that you have to worry about him. As it relates to the Nets, his inside play is the biggest cause for concern. He's shooting 70 percent inside the restricted area and takes eight free throws a game (good for fourth best in the Association). With Kirilenko still out, Lopez not at 100 percent if he plays and Kevin Garnett looking a mess, Love (& Nikola Pekovic too) should dominate on the inside.
From the Vault
Head on back to the 2004 Western Conference Finals and relive one of Kevin Garnett's great games as a member of the Wolves. This also happens to be the last playoff win for the Minnesota franchise.
More reading: Canis Hoopus
- Brooklyn Nets Game Notes - Brooklyn Nets
- Minnesota Timberwolves Game Notes - Minnesota Timberwolves
- Nets-Timberwolves Preview - Nicolino DiBenedetto - STATS LLC
- The missing ’Lenko: New Net making strides on his way back - Tim Bontemps - New York Post
- Nets rewind: Anderson leapfrogs Terry in rotation - Tim Bontemps - New York Post
- Kidd: Effort, not scheme, is what’s costing Nets on D - Tim Bontemps - New York Post
- Greg Anthony: Patience for Nets, panic for Knicks - Tim Bontemps - New York Post
- Report: Lopez not ruled out for Minnesota - Ohm Youngmisuk - ESPN New York
- Starting five: Where's the defense? - Ohm Youngmisuk - ESPN New York
- Knicks and Nets both terrible, but one will still win division - Frank Isola - New York Daily News
- Jason Kidd starting to sound delusional as Nets dodge reality - Stefan Bondy - New York Daily News
- Time for Kevin Garnett to step up - Jim Mancari - SNY Nets
- Clamoring to Put the City Back in the Game - Jay Schreiber - New York Times
- Deron Williams's Greatest Opponent: His Ankles - Alex Raskin - Wall Street Journal
- Your Official Knicks & Nets Panic Quiz - Jason Gay - Wall Street Journal
- High-spending Nets come to Target Center with dismal start - Jerry Zgoda - Minneapolis Star-Tribune
- Gameday preview: Brooklyn at Wolves - Jerry Zgoda - Minneapolis Star-Tribune
- With Kirilenko injured, Wolves appreciate their good fortune - Jerry Zgoda - Minneapolis Star-Tribune
- Timberwolves: For Kevin Garnett, new team, lower numbers, same effort - Andy Greder - St. Paul Pioneer-Press