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Nets end preseason with trip to Minnesota

Minnesota Timberwolves v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Whew! After two lackluster preseason contests that made a lot of fans anxious, the Brooklyn Nets looked pretty close to what fans have hoped for Wednesday: an aggressive outfit on both ends of the court with Ben Simmons looking like the ideal complement to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Three times during the second half, the Nets lead reached 19 points. All was right — for now — in NetsWorld.

On Friday night, the Nets, now 1-2 in the preseason, will go up against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the the finale of the NBA’s preliminaries. The TWolves are undefeated in the preseason despite not playing their new Twin Towers, Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert, together at all. Minnesota in fact has been saving KAT and Gobert for Friday night.

Where to follow the game

YES Network is where you need to be. Game will start a little after 8:00 p.m. ET


No word on whether either of the Nets two sharpshooters, Joe Harris (foot) and Seth Curry (ankle), will be available. Both traveled on the two-game road trip and while Harris played in Game 1 before experiencing soreness in his foot, Curry as of Thursday had not been cleared for five-on-five play. T.J. Warren (foot) is out.

The Timberwolves will be without ex-Long Island Nets player Jordan McLaughlin. P.J. Dozier, recovering from off-season surgery, is out.

The Game

For the Nets, this will be an opportunity to see if they can show improvement after their positive performance against the Bucks and finish the preseason on a high note. Also will Steve Nash to play his new “Big Three” a lot of minutes or none at all? They moved up from playing 19 minutes each in Game 1 of the preseason to 31 for Kevin Durant, 33 for Kyrie Irving and 28 for Ben Simmons on Wednesday night.

For the Timberwolves, the game will be the debut of Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns.

The July 6 trade between the Timberwolves and Jazz was the big trade of the off-season as Minnesota gave away the store — Patrick Beverley, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Leandro Bolmaro, and the draft rights to center Walker Kessler plus four first-round picks and a 2026 first-round pick swap — to get the three-time Defensive Player of the Year.

For a variety of reasons including Gobert’s need to rest after repping France in Eurobasket and KAT’s non-COVID illness, the two haven’t played together. That ends Friday night.

“We’ve had a few practices together and, unfortunately, we haven’t had as much time together, for one reason or another,” coach Chris Finch said Wednesday.

Finch told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that so far the chemistry has been good in practice but he knows the challenges, having been an assistant in New Orleans where Anthony Davis and Boogie Cousins manned the paint and the Pelicans got to the second round in 2018.

“I’ve always tried to approach it like if I can get the two bigs to be on the same page with each other and work the dynamics around that, that’s seemingly been the recipe,” Finch said. “We’re kind of starting to figure that part out.”

The big issues will be spacing and reads so the TWolves can take advantage of their dynamic backcourt and wings including D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards.

Also, expect Timberwolves to play Jaden McDaniels big minutes. Per Yahoo! Sports, the 6’10” small forward will be announced as the starter to begin the 2022-23 season. Minnesota expects big things from him in his third year.

Player to Watch

Rudy Gobert has a lot to prove in the Twin Cities. As noted, he cost the Timberwolves big time, but if he can establish his new team as a contender, it will be worth it. Minnesota is only a couple of notches above Sacramento in historic dysfunction.

He’s now 30 years old and is coming off maybe his best statistical season, setting career highs in rebounds (14.7) and shooting percentage (71.3) while averaging 15.6 points, the second highest total of his career. More importantly, he once again showed how he’s one of the game’s great rim protectors, for the eighth straight year averaging two or more blocks a game. There have been those, including the outspoken Patrick Beverly who’ve noted that his lack of mobility limits him to guarding the post rather than the other team’s best player.

Gobert retorted by saying his presence underneath is what sets him apart.

“What I want people to understand about what I do on the court, is that I’m not just guarding one player. When I’m out there, my mindset is to guard the whole team.” Gobert said last March.

Friday should help TWolves fans get a sense of just how Gobert can work with Towns and maybe alleviate fears that Gobert will add clutter to their team’s athletic offense while adding some electrifying defense. It’s Game 1 of the experiment.

From the Vault

It may have been the game that turned the Nets franchise around: the late-night, 28-point turnabout, then the best in franchise history, in March 2019 vs. the Kings. D’Lo scored 44 points in his best game as a Net. It set the stage for the playoffs then the Clean Sweep.

Thank you, D’Lo.

For more reading: CanisHoopus