Winning! The Brooklyn Nets (26-38) broke their five-game losing streak, with a 94-87 win in Philadelphia over the 76ers on Saturday night. After an uneven first half, the Nets held the Sixers to just 31 second-half points and 37.2 percent shooting for the game, including a dreadful 8-for-37 mark from three-point range. Thaddeus Young burned his former team with 21 points and nine rebounds to lead the Nets, and will now prepare to face his other former team tonight: the Minnesota Timberwolves (14-51).
Since coming over via trade for Kevin Garnett at the February 19th trading deadline, Young has been a consistent presence within the Nets rotation, averaging 13.7 points and 5.7 rebounds while shooting an efficient 52.7 percent in 25.8 minutes per game. Young’s consistency has been a bright spot during the Nets’ recent struggles and could be a useful asset going forward into next season if he decides not to opt out of his current contract after the season.
The Timberwolves are simply playing out the string at this point of their disappointing season. Head Coach Flip Saunders’ young team has lost eight of their last nine games, including a 123-97 thrashing at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs Sunday night. Already without forward Shabazz Muhammad (season-ending finger surgery), the Timberwolves sat Ricky Rubio (ankle), Anthony Bennett (leg), Nikola Pekovic (ankle), and Garnett (knee) for last night’s game.
Garnett has missed the last three games, and has played only five games in a Timberwolves uniform since the trade returned him where he played his first 12 NBA seasons. Much like this season in Brooklyn, Garnett has played limited minutes: 19.6 per game, averaging 7.6 points and 5.2 rebounds.
In their first meeting on November 15th, the Timberwolves beat the Nets at Barclays Center 98-91, led by Kevin Martin’s 24 points and Rubio’s 14 points and 12 assists. The Nets committed 18 turnovers and failed to execute down the stretch; the Timberwolves scored the final seven points after the Nets tied the game at 91 with 1:28 remaining. Andrew Wiggins, the first overall pick and odds on favorite for Rookie-of-the-Year, tallied his first double-digit scoring game of his career with 17 points.
Wiggins, all of 20 years old now, has been the team’s iron man. He’s played and started in all 65 games, while averaging 35 minutes per game. Center Gorgui Dieng is his only teammate to play in every game. Like most rookies, defense has been an issue for the young Wiggins, but his offensive game has been steady, averaging 15.7 points a game. On January 31th, Wiggins scored a career-high 33 points on 14-of-25 shooting in a 106-90 loss at home to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Timberwolves rank last in the NBA in opponents points per game (105.8) and opponent’s field goal percentage (48.6).
What to watch for: Spartan Power! Drafted 15th overall by the Atlanta Hawks in June, Adrien Payne has cracked the Timberwolves lineup thanks in part to the team’s numerous injuries. In 12 games since coming over via trade, the former Michigan State star has averaged 7.7 points and 5.9 rebounds in 24 minutes per game, including a 16-point, 15-rebound performance against the Clippers on March 9th. Size and athleticism have been tough covers for the Nets all season, and Payne fits the bill inside the paint and on the glass.
Tip-off is at 8:00 EDT at Target Center in Minneapolis, MN.