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Nets end 2019 on a bad note with loss to depleted Timberwolves, 122-115

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Brooklyn Nets v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

The year 2019 was monumental for the Brooklyn Nets. They made the playoffs for the first time in over four years, then later nabbed two of the biggest free agents on the market in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

But during the final game of 2019, neither were available. It was a big game for the struggling, depleted Nets who had lost three of four entering Monday. However, with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins sitting out, the Nets had a perfect opportunity to close out the year on a positive note.

And yet, they didn’t.

Final score: 121-113. The Nets have now lost three straight and four out of the last five. They’re 16-16 on the season and 12-9 without Kyrie Irving. Spencer Dinwiddie scored 34 points and dished out eight assists — his fourth game in the last six with 30+ points — but there’s only so much he can do.

The Nets need Caris LeVert or Kyrie Irving back as soon as possible. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. They simply don’t have another player that can put the ball on the floor and make a play, whether it be for themselves or others.

The Nets led 101-96 with 2:06 left, following a Dinwiddie free throw. The Nets came down on the other end, and watched as an air ball headed towards the out-of-bounds area. Everybody stood and watched. Gorgui Dieng went to go get it.

There you have it. The Timberwolves ended up tying the game at 101, then the Nets tied it at 103 apiece. It was Minnesota’s ball with 26.9 seconds left.

After making a stop, the Nets got a timeout called for them that they probably shouldn’t have gotten. There was only 0.2 second left. No matter, right?

Hand through the rim. Ref’s review! I mean, what in the world? It didn’t matter, to overtime we went, tied at 103 apiece.

And that’s where we witnessed: The Shabazz Napier revenge game.

Napier led the charge heading into the fourth, and the Timberwolves took a 113-109 lead with two minutes left in the overtime. Brooklyn missed on their attempt and Napier came down and nailed a huge mid-range jumper with 1:39 left in the game.

The Nets kept battling, though. Dinwiddie drove and scored on an and-one, but he missed his fourth free throw of the night, keeping it at a two-possession game with one minute left.

Down came the Timberwolves in a comfortable position, crowd on its feet. Napier drained out the clock, faked the drive, stepped back and nailed a huge three-pointer with 42 seconds left, seven-point Timberwolves lead.

Game. over.

The former Net finished with 24 points and eight assists — the final five being the most crucial points of the night. Gorgui Dieng, who made the spectacular play above, dropped 11 points and grabbed 20 rebounds.

Post-game, Atkinson was asked about what he and the team have to do to get back on track. He reiterated that he had faith in his players’ ability to respond, but said the dropoff is a bit of mystery.

“That’s how much I think of this team and these guys and how well we were playing. The standards have been raised. They raised the standards themselves, and for some reason, we’ve lost our mojo and I’m not sure why. Trust me, it’s not about the three losses, it’s not about dramatizing the loss. It’s more about the way we’re playing the game right now, that our process isn’t where it should be right now.”

Call it how you’d like. Sure, the Nets are depleted just like the Timberwolves. But losing a game like this is simply unacceptable, as Atkinson himself noted. Whether you chalk it up to effort, lack of execution, failing to build on leads... it was a game they should’ve had.

As teams adjust and the Nets get more burnt out, I continue to say: Get well soon, Caris and Kyrie. This team really needs one of the ball handlers to help Dinwiddie out, and get everybody else back into position.

INJURY STATUS

So how close are they? Irving’s situation remains, at best, uncertain. He’s not with the team on the trip and has yet to participate in contact. LeVert is with the team and is practicing. Here’s what Kenny Atkinson said pre-game.

“Worked this morning, looked really good, is feeling really good. We’re getting close,” said the coach. “That’s a big one. That’ll be more, a bigger five-on-five group. So we’re just getting real close. We want to make sure we check all the boxes; and a lot of boxes to be checked. I know we need him back...”

MILESTONES

There were a few. From Brooklyn Nets PR:

—Spencer Dinwiddie (9-of-13) from the FT line has become the first player in franchise history to attempt 10+ free throws in six straight games. He shared the previous record of five straight with Vince Carter (2005-06) and Buck Williams (1987-88).

Taurean Prince (11 points, career-high 14 boards) posted his seventh double-double of the season. Prince had five double-doubles in his first three seasons combined.

—Spencer Dinwiddie (36 points) has recorded 30+ points for be seventh time this season (five times on the road). He tallied 30+ points five times in his first five NBA seasons combined.

CARIS RETURNS TO MINNESOTA

Although he wasn’t active, Michael Grady of YES spoke with Caris LeVert about returning back to the place where he endured an extremely gruesome ankle injury. Grady mentions how LeVert hadn’t thought much of it until he stepped on the floor for a workout.

Listen to what he had to say in the video below:

ANOTHA’ ONE

There have been a ton of reasons why Kevin Durant chose the Nets over the Knicks. We’ve heard that he liked Brooklyn’s young core; that the Knicks were no longer “cool.” He even gave Kenny Atkinson a huge shout out at his introductory press conference at Media Day. Now, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News reports that Durant chose the Nets over the Knicks because of their, wait for it, PRACTICE FACILITY!

... Or at least that’s what Jared Dudley says. In the end, does it really matter? The Nets ended up with the ultimate prize. It should be noted that the Nets, under Mikhail Prokhorov laid out $52 million in the HSS Training Center while the Knicks, under James Dolan, has continued to use and outmoded facility 30 miles from Madison Square Garden. Seems like a smart investment.

For another perspective, head on over to Canis Hoopus, our Timberwolves sister site on SB Nation.

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Next up: Nets at Mavericks, Thursday at 8:30 PM ET.

[From everyone at NetsDaily, we’d like to wish you all a Happy New Year!]