The Wolves jumped out to yet another early first quarter lead in Brooklyn on Sunday evening and hung with the Nets for much of the game, even retaking the lead early in the second half.
But the Nets’ recent string of strong play at the Barclays Center continued as they pulled away late and ultimately won easily. Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson were both very good for the Nets, with Pierce shooting an ultra-efficient 8 for 11 on the night, including 5 of 8 from deep.
Early in the game, the Wolves’ defensive rotations were tight and crisp for the most part. As the night wore on, however, the gambling reached new heights. The steals that Corey Brewer and Kevin Martin’s gambling produced helped fuel the Timberwolves’ run that put them on top in the third quarter, but it also led to their demise. The home team (read: Shaun Livingston and Andre Blatche) stopped dribbling wildly into the teeth of the defense, and the Nets simply swung the ball and found the wide open shooter on the perimeter.
Sure enough, Brooklyn did little to no damage inside, and lived outside the arc and in the mid-range. The trouble for the Wolves was their inability to score in the paint. There is simply no excuse for a team that is starting the ancient Paul Pierce at power forward to be able to slow down Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic down low, but that’s precisely what happened.
Love shot just 5 of 14 from the field in putting up 14 points and 9 rebounds, and Pekovic only posted 13 points and 9 rebounds. It was an impressive defensive display by Jason Kidds’ Nets, and a colossal failure on the part of the Wolves to solve the Nets’ defensive scheme.
The Wolves starting lineup accumulated 10 steals, including 4 from Brewer. But as mentioned, far too many of the thefts were via the gamble, and as it turns out, a failed gamble often leads to two points for the opponent.
For the visitors, Kevin Martin managed 21 points on 9 of 16 shooting, and Ricky Rubio put up 7 points, 12 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals. Deron Williams was largely held in check by Rubio, shooting just 1 of 9 from the field and scoring just 6 points.
The Nets are on a roll, and they were prepared for the Wolves’ attack in the paint. It had to be embarrassing for Love and Pekovic to allow the 6′ 8″ Pierce and the slight Miles Plumlee to stymie their inside play, but here’s hoping they can figure out what happened and bounce back.
Tomorrow night the Wolves will host the Los Angeles Clippers at 7:00 CT. The Clippers may be without Blake Griffin, who left Saturday night’s game with back spasms.