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Nets take a trip to Minnesota to play the Wolves

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Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Airplanes and trains, short days and long nights. The Brooklyn Nets circus road trip took a stop in Denver last night and Brook Lopez won it for Brooklyn with a tip-in with under one second to go. The Nets have gone 3-3 on the trip, 4-4 since the All Star break, and will be looking to go above .500 with a victory tonight.

The next opponent on the trip will be the Minnesota Timberwolves. The rebuilding process has continued this year and they will have another high pick in the Draft this year. They played last night and lost 116-101 to the Bucks at home. It was their third straight loss.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV, WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Tip off after 8 PM.

Injuries

Nothing new for the Nets.

Kevin Garnett hasn't played since January 23 due to a knee injury and he won't be on the court tonight. Nemanja Bjelica missed last night's game with a foot injury and his availability for tonight is unknown.

The game

What's happening:

2015-2016

Brooklyn

Minnesota

Record

18-44 19-43

Pace

96.91 97.27

Offensive Efficiency

100.1 103

Defensive Efficiency

106.6 107

Turnover Rate

15.3 15.4

Assist Rate

17 17.2

Offensive Rebounding Rate

23.6 25.2

Rebound Rate

49.4 50.6

Free Throw Rate

24.1 33.9

Effective Field Goal Percentage

49 48.8

Opponent's Effective Field Goal Percentage

52.4 52.1

The Wolves won the first game in December.

Here's something interesting. In his weekly column, Zach Lowe of ESPN reported that the Wolves called the Milwaukee Bucks around the trading deadline and were looking to trade Ricky Rubio for Khris Middleton. Rubio is still a bad shooter, but an excellent passer that leaves his teammates in great positions to score and a solid defender. As the Wolves assess their roster and make moves to get back into contention, how they surround Rubio will be key to their plans.

Minnesota has received a lot of criticism for their offensive execution this year. While their offense is middle of the pack in terms of efficiency, they're last in three point attempts and efficiency while being first in shots taken in the midrange area. Coach Sam Mitchell spoke about that a few months ago and said:

So when you look at it, what is going to give you a better chance to win? Obviously we need to get better offensively and try to open things up and get a little more flow and try to get some easy baskets. But at the end of the day, our inability, our not being able to shoot three-ball, is really tough because everybody just packs the paint. Everybody just sits on the elbows and the boxes and they take away our penetration. And they make us shoot jump shots. Which is tough on us.

I would recommend reading both parts of his interview with Britt Robson of the Minn Post. It's fantastic.

With all the discussion surrounding the changing nature of big men in the NBA, we get to see two of the better ones in the league this evening. Karl Anthony Towns has had a fantastic rookie season and will more than likely be named Rookie of the Year. KAT is second among rookies in scoring at 17.4 points a game, first in rebounding with 10.3, second in blocks with 1.8, and is shooting an impressive 53.9 percent from the field. As Towns continues to develop and expand his game, he will be a consistent All Star that can be the face of the franchise. On the other side is Brook Lopez. Lopez has been great for the Nets and is feeling great after hitting a game winner last night. Towns has earned raves for his defense at Center and will be dealing with Brooklyn's number one scoring option.

Player to watch: Andrew Wiggins

Wiggins has had an interesting sophomore season. His scoring is up, his field goal percentage is up, he's getting to the free throw line more often, and he's cut down on his turnovers. But why does it feel like his season has been a disappointment? It's worth checking out this article by Key Dae of Canis Hoopus, and this section in particular:

A big reason I think Wiggins is fed the ball so much in isolation - particularly in the post - is because he's simply not capable of doing much else right now. He either lacks the necessary skills or the awareness.

The skill side of this is easy to see. Wiggins doesn't do much spot-up or hand-off work because he's simply not very good at it - again, the weak handles - and his isolations are usually the post-up kind, where he has his body between the ball and the defender and doesn't have to change direction in mid-move often.

We mentioned the Wolves assessing the roster earlier, and something else they will need to watch is how Wiggins develops his game over the summer. In addition to Towns and Rubio, Wiggins is someone Minnesota is counting on to help get them back into playoff contention. He's still incredibly young and has shown flashes of brilliance. The Wolves have a lot of important decisions to make over the next three seasons, and Wiggins' improvement will have a major influence on what they choose to do.

Wiggins has struggled with his defense this year, and Bojan Bogdanovic will present a good challenge for him. Bogdanovic has benefited most from the firing of Lionel Hollins and the release of Joe Johnson. He's played more minutes, been featured more in the offense, and has taken a lot more three pointers. Like the Wolves, Brooklyn is assessing their roster and determining which players are worth building around. If Bojan is able to keep up his great play, he'll be a guarantee to return next year.

From the Vault

I was digging around in the Sports Illustrated Vault a few days ago and came across this Jack McCallum article on KG. Here's one section that stands out:

Despite Garnett's natural gifts--quickness, jumping ability, size--his game has none of the apparent effortlessness of, say, Kobe Bryant's. He is, rather, the frontcourt version of Mavericks point guard Steve Nash, seeming to exert maximum energy on almost every shot. Garnett competes with such intensity that he used to spoil Minnesota's practice drills. "We wanted to work on something specific, like defending a pick-and-roll," says Saunders, "but all KG wanted to do was come out on top. We had to throttle him back a little." Indeed, Garnett still feels his biggest weakness is being too hyper. "My decision-making is sometimes horrendous," he says. "I need to slow down and assess rather than rush in." Yet Garnett is also called upon to calm down everyone else. Point guard Troy Hudson is an excitable player given to streak shooting, while Szczerbiak can come unglued after a spate of missed shots. Garnett, the team captain, is their counselor.

With that as the backdrop, watch Garnett go to work against the LA Lakers.

More reading: Canis Hoopus