Brooklyn Nets vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
Time: 7:30 p.m. EST
Where: Barclays Center
Watch: YES Network, FOX Sports GO
Listen: WFAN 101.9, 660 AM
The Brooklyn Nets are undefeated in the year 2018. On the second night of a New Year’s back-to-back, Brooklyn executed in the second half, beating the Orlando Magic 98-95. The game was a team effort, with no player scoring more than 16 points and with several players snagging more than 5 rebounds. Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen were huge off the bench, showing chemistry and ferocity. DeMarre Carroll had a double-double, also securing a huge rebound to prevent the Magic from taking the last shot. All in all, Monday night’s victory was a positive sign for the Nets – a show of resiliency.
On Wednesday night, the Nets play the second game of a five-game homestand against the Minnesota Timberwolves. This will be the first time the Nets play the new-look Wolves, now featuring Jimmy Butler. Minnesota currently stands at 24-14, good for fourth in the Western Conference. Along with Butler, the homegrown duo of former No. 1 picks Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns have been impressive offensively as well.
Minnesota has performed well as of late, going 8-2 in its last 10 games. While the Nets may be coming off a strong performance against the Magic, they will need to compete all 48 minutes against the Tom Thibodeau-coached Wolves. Here are three things to watch for in Wednesday’s Nets-Wolves matchup!
Prior to Monday night’s game against the Magic, Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson announced that he expects Jahlil Okafor to play Wednesday night’s matchup against the Timberwolves.
Atkinson said he expects Jahlil Okafor to return to the court against the T-Wolves. #Nets
— Brian Lewis (@NYPost_Lewis) January 1, 2018
Okafor has played only one game since he was acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers via trade on Dec. 7. The former No. 2 pick has been working with Brooklyn’s performance team to improve his conditioning. Okafor has also been seen working on his jumper at Nets shootaround. If Okafor plays Wednesday, as expected, he’ll be making his Barclays Center debut in Brooklyn black and white. The Nets may need the interior scoring punch on Wednesday against Karl Anthony-Towns, a subpar defender. While Nets fans may have seen him briefly against the Raptors, Wednesday looks like it will mark the official start of the Okafor experiment.
On Tuesday, LeVert was announced as doubtful for Wednesday’s game due to a left groin strain. While LeVert may not be officially out for Wednesday’s game, the Nets’ cautious approach to injuries (and rest) is known well. LeVert played an excellent December off the bench, scoring 14.3 points, dishing 5.4 assists and grabbing 3.5 rebounds per game, while also shooting 45.3 percent from three. The sophomore has looked comfortable as the Nets’ primary second unit ballhandler and has grown confident in his ability to score as well.
With LeVert out, the Nets may look to Isaiah Whitehead or Milton Doyle to handle primary playmaking duties off the bench. Spencer Dinwiddie may see an uptick in minutes as well, mixing in with the reserves.
Along with LeVert’s questionable status, DeMarre Carroll is questionable with a strained rib. On the other hand, Minnesota will be without its starting point guard, Jeff Teague. The former All-Star suffered an MCL sprain in his left knee and will be out for at least two weeks. But still, LeVert’s (probable) absence could disrupt the Nets’ rhythm on Wednesday.
A Styles Clash
While the Wolves have looked impressive as of late, many questions persist on the team’s defense. Despite being coached by defensive stalwart Thibodeau, the Wolves ranked No. 22 in defensive efficiency, per basketball-reference. (The Nets rank at No. 20.) In particular, Anthony Wiggins and Anthony-Towns may be two of the worst defenders at their position. Defense has not yet clicked for the two youngsters, and the Wolves have paid for it at times. They allow 105.9 points per game, the fourth worst mark in the league. If the Nets’ offense clicks on Wednesday, they have a shot of opening the flood gates against the Wolves.
Another staple of Thibodeau-coached teams is the high minutes load of key players. Wiggins, Towns and Butler are in the top five of most minutes played this season. (The other two are LeBron James and Russell Westbrook.) The Nets play quickly, creating more possessions per game due to the frantic pace. This could potentially tire out the Wolves if they were to play their normal minutes load. If the Nets keep pushing the pace offensively, and get hot from the field, they have a shot to steal a game against the surging Wolves.
Pregame coverage begins at 7 p.m. on YES Network. Be sure to follow @TheBKGame on Twitter for the latest game coverage!