There’s Always A Badder Man In The Prison: Timberwolves 98, Nets 91



Good morning, Brooklyn. I’ll try to make this recap more entertaining than the game. Here’s what you need to know about last night’s Nets loss:

What happened: The Nets let a game against an inferior team slip away, falling 98-91 to the Minnesota Timberwolves despite valiant performances from Joe Johnson and Deron Williams. Kevin Martin led the Timberwolves with 26 points, while Nikola Pekovic added 16 points and 11 rebounds and limited Brook Lopez to just 5-14 shooting.

Lionel Hollins, Not Mincing Words About Nikola Pekovic Dominating Brook Lopez, Part I: “There’s always a badder man than you in the prison, and you’ve got to do it every night. Pek won tonight.”

Given Kevin Garnett’s description earlier this year of playing center as akin to being in “a cage,” the prison metaphor seems awfully apt.

Where they stand: At 2-2, the Nets rank second in the Atlantic Division, behind the 4-1 Toronto Raptors.

That was… A lost cause. With the Nets holding a slim lead late in the fourth quarter, the team suffered a cascade of mistakes down the stretch, climaxing in a crucial offensive foul on an inbounds play by center Brook Lopez, an illegal screen that lost the Nets possession down 94-91 with just 48 seconds left.

“Dumb foul,” Lopez snarled through gritted teeth. “We had an opportunity and I killed it.”

But the fact that they were even in that position was troubling. The Nets couldn’t buy a bucket with Mikhail Prokhorov’s bank account to open the game, and the Timberwolves exploded out to a 17-2 lead. Some heady play by Deron Williams and Brook Lopez’s penchant for shooting every time he touched the ball eventually helped the Nets claw back, and Joe Johnson performed his usual fourth-quarter duties by scoring 11 of his 22 points in the final frame, but the Nets couldn’t get the stops they needed before the game was on the line.

The late-game issues aside, the Nets didn’t give this one away down the stretch. They gave this one away by not hitting open shots for the first six minutes. They gave it away with 18 turnovers over the course of the game. They gave it away by giving up 13 offensive rebounds and 16 second-chance points. They gave it away by Kevin Garnett shooting 1-7 from the field, by getting out-rebounded 51-42, by never making a run that gave them a lead larger than six points. This wasn’t a popped bubble, it was a wrinkled balloon, slowly deflating for 48 minutes until Kevin Martin & Nikola Pekovic set it ablaze in the final minute.

Angry Prokhorov: Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, on hand in his usual center-court suite, stormed out of the arena after the game with his head down, silent.

Lionel Hollins, Not Mincing Words About Nikola Pekovic Dominating Brook Lopez, Part II: “The guy whipped him.”

He wasn’t lying. The game wasn’t lost on the inside alone, but the scoreboard doesn’t quite do the final result justice: Lopez flailed into Pekovic with his right hand to no avail, and the bigger, stronger Pekovic bullied Lopez in the paint for buckets inside.

Pekovic, who averaged 17.5 points on 54.1 percent shooting in 54 games last season and has muscles that may be considered a performance-enhancing drug by Major League Baseball, said that was the plan all along. “That’s what coach said I should do. I’m glad the guys really believed in me and starting calling plays for me. It was really good.”

Lopez hated his performance, and didn’t hide it. “I’m very disappointed in myself. … I wasn’t playing any defense,” he said. “It’s not what (Pekovic) was doing, it was what I wasn’t doing. I wasn’t bodying him up, I wasn’t being my normal self. It’s not the way it should be.”

Undefeated update: The Nets are no longer undefeated at home.

Game Grades: Read ’em here.

Hey, this game kind of stunk, but Deron Williams doesn’t:

Criticism has rained on Deron Williams for the last three years for his inability to play at his highest level since the Nets acquired him in February 2011. But after undergoing surgery on both of his ankles last May, Williams looks the part of an All-Star point guard, and he didn’t disappoint Wednesday night, scoring 19 points on 8-16 shooting, adding six assists. It wasn’t his finest game in the early going — four turnovers made sure of that — but he sure looks closer to All-Star than dud. Also, nice layup.

ABCDE Stands For “Anthony Bennett, Canadian Dunker Extraordinaire”:

Even though this came at Mason Plumlee’s expense, it’s kind of nice to see Bennett succeed. After having arguably the worst season by a #1 pick in NBA history, Bennett came into his sophomore year trimmer and more focused. He probably won’t ever live up to his lofty status — and really, can you blame him for getting selected too high? — but plays like this give you hope for the kid.

Kevin Garnett, veteran: With his 13th minute, Kevin Garnett passed 49,000 regular season minutes on his career, making him just the fifth player in NBA history to hit that mark. Ahead of him: Elvin Hayes, Jason Kidd, Karl Malone, and all-time minutes leader Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Shot Chart Rorschach Test: The Nets in the first seven minutes of the game: the blood of Pekovic’s victims.


Locker Room Language: After the game, it was hard to tell if Brook Lopez was more frustrated at his own play or having to answer questions about it. I would guess the former, but both were clearly getting to him.

Across the river: Despite 20 points off the bench from sophomore guard Tim Hardaway JR., The Knicks fell to the Detroit Pistons 98-95 in Detroit, just a few short days after the Nets defeated that Pistons team handily with a lockdown fourth-quarter effort.

Next up: The Nets practice Thursday before taking on those cross-town rival New York Knicks (2-3) on Friday night at Barclays Center.