Nov 22, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Andray Blatche (0) shoots while defended by Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Dante Cunningham (33) and point guard Ricky Rubio (9) in the second quarter at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Greg Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Wolves (36-35) at Nets (38-33)

The Brooklyn Nets were a popular pick to challenge Miami and Indiana at the top of the Eastern Conference during the 2013-14 campaign. During the holiday season, however, concerns surrounding the struggling squad reached a fever pitch.

Rookie head coach Jason Kidd was an NBA player just one year ago, and his team opened the season in floundering fashion. Just prior to Thanksgiving, their record sat at 3-10. By Christmas, it was 9-19. Things were ugly. From spilled drinks to injuries, it was clear that Kidd was on the ropes.

After January 1, Brooklyn has mounted a 28-12 mark and is sitting just 1 1/2 games back of the Chicago Bulls for the fourth seed and home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. It’s been an impressive turnaround, and it’s impossible to know how much credit to give to Coach Kidd, how much was simply a team with good players finally playing to their ability (law of averages), and to what level it was a bunch of veterans “figuring it out”.

At any rate, this is a good team. They’ve mostly been feasting on Eastern Conference competition, of course, and prior to an 11-point home win over Cleveland on Friday night had played three consecutive overtime affairs on the road. After beating the Mavericks in Dallas last Sunday, they dropped a pair of games in the extra session to New Orleans and Charlotte.

They’ll be happy to return home tonight and face the Wolves, who are a on a brief two-game win ‘streak’. But even though it’s only been two games, it’s a pair of contests that the Wolves have one easily, and they clearly have a certain amount of confidence after the emergence of Gorgui Dieng and the return of Nikola Pekovic on Friday night.

Kevin Garnett is still out, and the Nets have been relying on Paul Pierce’s reemergence, along with solid play from Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. Still, it isn’t quite the overall performance that the Nets’ brass envisioned when they put together this ultra-expensive, experienced roster.

Tonight should be a fun way, provided the Wolves’ back court finds a way to slow down Williams and Johnson, and Marcus Thornton off the bench. There isn’t a whole lot down low for the Nets that they could reasonably expect to slow down Pekovic and Kevin Love. They should both be able to get through Miles Plumlee, and he’s really the only large body that starts and receives heavy minutes for Brooklyn.

Tonight’s game tips at 6:00 C.T., and we’ll have a recap here immediately afterwards.

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Tags: Deron Williams Kevin Garnett Kevin Love Minnesota Timberwolves Nikola Pekovic

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