In the midst of the bad times, the 3-8 Brooklyn Nets travel to Minnesota tonight to take on the 7-6 Minnesota Timberwolves, looking to snap a three-game losing streak and win just their second game on the road this season. The Timberwolves are on a two-game losing streak of their own, after dropping contests to the Los Angeles Clippers and Washington Wizards — two teams the Nets lost to earlier this year.
The Nets, who’ve jumped out of the gate like they have bricks tied to their sneakers, have an uphill battle to climb if they want to beat the Timberwolves: despite Minnesota’s pedestrian 7-6 record, they’ve recorded the 11th-best offense and fifth-best defense in the league. But the Timberwolves either seem to blow you out or lose: they’re 0-5 in games decided by four points or less, and they beat opponents by an average of 15.9 points per game when they win.
To sum up: the Nets, who entered the season with a record payroll and championship aspirations, come in a significant underdog against the Timberwolves, who spent below the luxury tax threshold on their players and haven’t had a winning record in nine seasons. Things done changed.
The Nets and Timberwolves have a fair amount of ties. Nets forward Andrei Kirilenko opted out of the last year of his deal with Minnesota (worth approximately $10 million), only to sign a two-year deal with the Nets for $6.2 million, with only one year guaranteed.
The Timberwolves are also the former home of Nets power forward Kevin Garnett, who was drafted by Minnesota out of high school. He played a dozen seasons with the franchise, winning an MVP Award, and holds the franchise records for games played, minutes played, points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. Garnett has also never lost to the Timberwolves, with a perfect 7-0 record against them since leaving the team.
The Timberwolves of today look much different than Garnett’s Timberwolves. They’re led by Kevin Love, arguably the best big man in the NBA, Kevin Martin, one of the NBA’s best and most awkward shooters, and Ricky Rubio, one of the NBA’s most creative passers and shot creators. For a taste of what Rubio can do, Just watch this, over and over again.
Rubio is averaging 7.9 points and 8.8 assists per game, though he’s shooting a dreadful 33.7% from the field. Even Garnett’s shooting better than that.
Love’s game relies less on flash, but he’s been a monster this year, averaging 25.4 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 4.8 assists in 36 minutes per game. No one is even close to approaching those numbers. He currently leads the league in points and win shares, ranks fourth with a 27.1 PER, and he’s shooting 34.9% from three-point range. So he’s pretty good.
Martin shoots like he’s trying to open a jar of pickles, but you can’t question its effectiveness. Through 13 games, the shooting guard’s averaged 23.6 points per game, has hit eight of 12 three-pointers in transition, and is shooting 47% on threes overall.
The Nets don’t expect Kirilenko (back spasms) to see the floor, and the status of Brook Lopez (ankle sprain) and Deron Williams (ankle sprain) is unclear. Lopez has sat out since injuring the ankle a week ago against the Phoenix Suns, while Williams injured his ankle in that same game, returned to play Wednesday against the Charlotte Bobcats, and landed awkwardly on the ankle again.