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Nets conclude final tune-up with win over Timberwolves, 107-101

Minnesota Timberwolves v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The final tune-up before the regular season was a success.

The Nets defeated the Timberwolves, 107-101, Thursday night in their last preseason game. Brooklyn, who finished the preseason with a record of 3-1, had plenty of takeaways to be pleased about.

Brooklyn entered the final minute of play nursing a flimsy 103-101 advantage. After Minnesota was busted for a traveling violation, Jevon Carter — who played well on both ends and finished with six points in 20 minutes — lost the ball on the right wing leading to a turnover with 27.5 seconds remaining. Luckily, Jake Layman of the Wolves missed the left-wing three and Cam Thomas — four points in eight minutes — grabbed the offensive rebound hit a combined four free throws in the final seconds to ice the contest.

Joe Harris put on a signature shooting performance throughout the contest, shooting 8-of-12 from the field and 7-of-10 from deep to finish with a quiet 23 points in 30 minutes of play. The Nets sharpshooter also contributed five rebounds and three assists in the win.

James Harden, who has looked progressively better in the preseason, put on his finest facilitating display thus far. The Nets guard thrived in the pick-and-roll with Nicolas Claxton — who started and recorded 11 points, seven rebounds and one assist in 24 minutes — and dished a total of 14 assists. Harden only scored six points in the contest and played 31 minutes.

“Me running into screens. Just being active creates a lot of opportunities for our shooters and everybody. That’s what I want to really focus on this year, especially on the offensive end. James makes the game so much easier for everybody. The way he sees the game,” Claxton said on playing with Harden.

The 22-year-old admitted to being under the weather.

“Right now, I’m battling a little sickness so I was a little tired out there but my goal this year is to take my conditioning to a whole other level,” he said. “That’s a big part of my growth. It’s something I really got to push myself just to get to that level where I can play as many minutes as I need to.”

“It’s a big opportunity and I’m definitely ready. Me being the energy guy, just creating opportunities for others and I feel a lot stronger out there, especially on the defensive end. Just being able to hold my ground, so I’m looking forward to this year. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Kevin Durant had another productive night to conclude the preseason tune-up. Durant scored 19 points on 8-of-16 from the field and 3-of-6 from deep. Durant snagged seven rebounds and dished one assist in as well in the 30-minute performance.

From one Texas Longhorn in double-figures to another, LaMarcus Aldridge put his signature post-ups on display, ending his night with 16 points in 24 minutes off the bench. Half of his points came from the charity strike.

Brooklyn finished the preseason with wins over the Lakers in L.A., wins over the Bucks and Timberwolves in Brooklyn and a loss to the 76ers in Philly.

The Nets opened the contest shooting 7-of-14 from the field and 3-of-6 from three to forge an early 17-12 advantage. Claxton (three) and Millsap (six) provided Brooklyn with a boost on the boards during the span. Despite the strong start, the offense slowed down and the sluggish defense picked up a tad after boosts from Mills and Bembry.

Minnesota forged a 10-2 run and on the final play of the frame, Karl Anthony Towns — 16 points in 29 minutes — drilled a 25-foot three from the right wing to give the Wolves a 30-27 lead.

After both teams traded buckets back-and-forth — that included a nifty Harden-to-Claxton alley-oop — the Nets flipped the defense into offense, forging a dominant 19-0 run kicked off by a trio of three’s from Durant, Harden and Bembry. Brooklyn didn’t let the foot off the gas and were clicking on both ends of the floor to balloon their lead to double-digits (11), leaving the Wolves to call a timeout with 4:07 remaining.

Minnesota forged a run of their own, holding the Nets scoreless on nine straight possessions and going on a 10-0 run. Aldridge got the Nets out of the run, going to his signature post-up to draw two fouls on Towns, hitting four free throws. Brooklyn hit the locker room nursing a 57-49 advantage — led by Durant with 12 points, five rebounds and one assist in 18 minutes.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Despite Brooklyn getting a scoring punch from Harris — a quiet eight points — in the third, Minnesota’s three-balls continued to pile up, cutting the deficit from eight points to three. The Nets were left to call a timeout with 6:57 remaining in the frame. Out of the timeout, Brooklyn upped their perimeter defense, holding Minnesota to 25.7 percent from three. Meanwhile, the offense was consistent in the final minutes, shooting 51.6 percent from the field and 48.0 percent from three to head into the final 12 minutes up 84-75.

Brooklyn opened the final frame with their offense clicking. The back-to-back threes from Durant and Harris restored the Nets' lead to 92-79, leaving Chris Finch and the Wolves to call a timeout with 9:52 remaining. Nash pulled Harden and Durant, along with Claxton, with 8:02 remaining in a line change — replaced with a small-ball dominate line of Carter, Brown, Thomas, Bembry and Aldridge — to finish off the preseason finale.

The Timberwolves were without former Net D’Angelo Russell and Josh Okogie while the Nets were without Kyrie Irving and Blake Griffin who was given the day off.

Bembry again plays well, praises Claxton

Steve Nash once again gave DeAndre’ Bembry big minutes and he produced. Bembry, a 6’5” wing with both defensive and distribution skills, played nearly 19 minutes, scoring four points, grabbing seven rebounds and adding a neat assist to Nic Claxton.

Post-game, Bembry spoke highly of Claxton ... and his potential.

“I’ve been pushing Nic since I got here,” said Bembry who was signed to a partially guaranteed deal this summer. “He’s still 22, still learning, still growing but him rolling to the rim is going to open up so much for us. That’s what I told him during the game. If they don’t protect you at the rim, you can finish around the rim like the best of them.

“If he’s not getting the ball, we have multiple other guys that are ready to shoot it, drive and kick. It’s only going to open the lanes for us with Nic out there, for sure.”

What’s next

The next time the Nets touch the NBA hardwood, the games will count. Brooklyn will travel to Milwaukee to play the reigning champion, Bucks on Tuesday, Oct. 19. The game — which will begin with the Bucks being presented their 2020-21 championship rings — is scheduled to tip at 7:30 PM ET.

For a different perspective on the Nets preseason finale, check out Canis Hoopus — our sister site covering the Timberwolves.