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Brooklyn Nets vs. Minnesota Timberwolves preview: Nets try to right the ship

After another bad loss, the Nets try to get back on track. It won’t be easy as they welcome one of the best teams in the NBA into Barclays Center.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards Photo by Kenny Giarla/NBAE via Getty Images

The season is slipping away, and perhaps their standing in the New York City basketball landscape as well. On Tuesday night, the Brooklyn Nets hosted the New York Knicks. As we all know, Knicks fans are loud as hell. Even when the team is down bad, their fans are loud and proud. And when the team is good bordering on great, buddy. The Nets found that out the hard way as Knicks fans made noise all night long and had the last (loud) laugh as the Nets suffered another bruising defeat in front of all the stars and fans at Barclays Center.

Simply put, the Nets are far and away the weakest of the NYC pro basketball teams between themselves, the Knicks and the New York Liberty. The Liberty and Knicks are both contenders and have given their fans plenty to cheer about and be proud of in the past few seasons. As for the Nets? It’s been a steady stream of disappointment and as frustration builds on the team and within the fanbase, you start to wonder if the breaking point is coming sooner rather than later.

The opponent tonight has been one of the more pleasant surprises of the NBA season. The Minnesota Timberwolves have taken a big step forward and are near tied with the Oklahoma City Thunder atop the Western Conference standings. They played and beat the Washington Wizards last night in DC.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN on radio. Tip after 7:30.

Injuries

Cam Johnson is questionable with a left shoulder contusion. No Ben Simmons, Day’Ron Sharpe or Dariq Whitehead, but Noah Clowney was called up from Long Island Wednesday. In his only extended minutes in Brooklyn, he scored 14 points and grabbed four rebounds.

Night two of a back-to-back so we’ll see who’s good to go. We know for sure Jaylen Clark is out due to an Achilles injury while Mike Conley has been out due to an illness. No word on if he’ll be back tonight.

The game

How do you respond when your team melts down and loses all sense of composure during a game? That’s what Wolves head coach Chris Finch had to figure out after his team collapsed and took a disastrous home loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Monday night

Every team takes an ugly loss or two throughout the season. That’s the nature of the 82 games business. How you respond after that tests your growth, connectedness, and resolve.

To circle back to the point I was discussing at the beginning of this story, Mikal Bridges was asked about the crowd on Tuesday and said:

Tuesday night must’ve stung extra hard for Bridges. He’s been at the ‘clays when it’s been rocking for the home team and the fans bringing the energy needed to make the atmosphere electric and fun. For the Nets crowd, they haven’t consistently brought that level of energy and when you compare it to how Barclays is during the spring and summer, it becomes even more stark.

The loss overshadowed what was truly a magnificent game for Bridges. He was marvelous as his 36/5/5 line led the Nets. He punished the Knicks from all angles and brought the punch needed to keep the Nets in it.

Bridges will chase around his fellow Team USA running mate. Anthony Edwards has taken another step forward and is a sure bet to be named an All Star. The Ant Man can do everything on the court at a high level and is always one play away from heating up and going on a personal run to take over the game. With Conley less than 100 percent, Edwards will have more responsibility leading the offense and making sure everything runs well. He and Edwards (along with Cam Johnson) are under consideration to be named to the United States Men’s Olympic Basketball Team for the 2024 Olympics in Paris. It would be a welcome honor for a rising superstar and someone that will lead the NBA into the next generation. Exciting times in Minnesota.

Player to watch: Karl Anthony Towns

It must really suck when you set a franchise record, but you can’t really celebrate it because your team blew a winnable game. That’s where KAT found himself on Monday after his franchise record 62 points. He was on fire in ways that words can not do justice

The Wolves have a pretty unique set up, and over at Zone Coverage, Charlie Walton wrote about it:

“For Towns to work alongside Gobert, the Kentucky Wildcat must continue to live behind the 3-point line. That would open up driving lanes for Anthony Edwards and pick-and-roll opportunities for Gobert. But as Finch told Reddick, KAT is valuable with the ball in his hands, operating at the nail and low block. Therefore, the Wolves can’t treat him as an off-ball 2-guard whose only offensive responsibility is to attempt mostly triples.

“Forty-two games into the season, (Anthony-Towns) is having one of the least productive 3-point shooting seasons of his career. Perhaps relatedly, the Timberwolves have the league’s 19th-best offensive rating (114.3). Minnesota’s defense has kept them as the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed for about 12 weeks. But the offense will eventually need to improve. Could KAT help improve some of the Wolves’ offensive issues by shooting more threes? Some may answer with a resounding yes, but the answer is not that black and white.”

For as good as Towns and the Wolves have been, there’s still plenty of room to get even better.

Nic Claxton will have a tall task on his hands tonight. In addition to Towns, he’ll have to battle with Rudy Gobert on the interior throughout the evening. And if that’s not enough, Naz Reid has been one of the best reserves in the NBA this season and can bury you from three point range. Clax has met various challenges throughout the season and is someone that can fly all over the court.

From the Vault

We are gearing up for the Royal Rumble this weekend! With that in mind, let’s take it back to ‘94.

More reading: Canis Hoopus, SB Nation NBA, Nets Republic, Zone Coverage