Pregame Open Thread: New Jersey Nets @ Minnesota Timberwolves

In what’s recently been dubbed the “Contraction Bowl” due to LeBron James’ infamous comments, the 9-24 Nets take on the 8-25 Minnesota Timberwolves tonight in Minnesota. Both teams look to kick off the new year a little better than they left it; the Nets lost 90-81 in yesterday’s afternoon game against Chicago while the T’Wolves lost to a Carmelo Anthony-less Nuggets team 119-113 on December 29th. This is the first game since the Nets played the Clippers in November that I fully expect a victory from the Nets, even though they’re not on their home turf.

Here are a few things to look out for in tonight’s game.

Control the pace. The Timberwolves, at 97.8 possessions per game, are the fastest team in the NBA – yes, even faster than the run’n’gun Golden State Warriors. The Nets, on the other hand, play a snail’s pace, at a 89.8 possessions per game – 28th in the league and a full eight possessions slower than the Wolves. While neither team has proven to be particularly good at the pace they’re accustomed too, there’s a good chance that whichever team holds the game closer to their system will come out with a victory.

Abuse the inside. Starting center Darko Milicic is listed as probable for tonight’s game. If that doesn’t tell you enough by itself, the Timberwolves are very thin at center and their star power forward Kevin Love isn’t known for his defense. If Brook can manhandle the inside against the T-Wolves, there’s not much they’ll have to counter with.

Control Michael Beasley. When Beasley scores under 30 points, the Timberwolves are 4-23. When Beasley scores 30 points or more, the Timberwolves are 4-2. The Timberwolves have only had one win when Beasley had an off game, and that was against Detroit. I know the Nets don’t exactly boast a lot of defensive depth at the 3 spot, but if Travis Outlaw can keep a hand in Beasley’s face throughout the night, the Nets should win this one.

For more info & analysis on the Minnesota Timberwolves, check out TrueHoop affiliate A Wolf Among Wolves.