Nets not as hungry as Wolves
Squander Fourth-Quarter Lead in 98-91 Loss to Minnesota
Lionel Hollins resorted to using jailhouse lingo to describe the Nets’ first home loss of the young season.
“I’m always saying there’s a badder man than you in prison,” Brooklyn’s first-year head coach noted after watching his team get outscored 14-3 down the stretch en route to a deflating 98-91 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves in front of 16,302 fans at Downtown’s Barclays Center on Wednesday night.
The “badder man” in question was Minnesota center Nikola Pekovic, who scored 16 points, including a go-ahead three-point play over Brook Lopez with 49 seconds remaining, and grabbed 11 rebounds, as Brooklyn fell to 2-2 on the season entering Friday night’s home showdown with the East River rival Knicks.
“Well [Pekovic] whipped [Lopez]. I mean, it happens,” Hollins lamented following an uneven effort by his squad, which began with a 17-2 run by the Timberwolves and ended with the Nets’ first epic meltdown of the campaign. “You’ve got to give Pekovic credit. He was a man in there.”
Though Hollins stopped shy of questioning his own team’s collective manhood, the tough-talking coach readily admitted that the young and improving T-Wolves were the hungrier and more energetic of the two units on the floor.
“We got off to a really slow start,” he said. “Down 17-2 and we battled back, and we just didn’t have the mindset, the will, you know. It’s almost like they just had a little bit more energy than us on the whole night.”
Lopez, playing his second game after sitting out the first two with a mid-foot sprain, finished with 10 points on 5-of-14 shooting to go with five rebounds, four turnovers and two blocked shots after a solid performance in his season debut (18 points, six rebounds) against a short-handed Oklahoma City squad in Monday’s home opener.
But the 7-foot center proved no match for Minnesota’s dynamo of a pivot man, especially when it mattered most in the waning stages of the fourth quarter.
“I was just trying to do my stuff like I usually do,” said Pekovic. “I tried to bump [Lopez]. I tried to give him a hard time. Everyone knows I am going to do that, hustling in the paint is what I do.”
The Nets, who were out-rebounded 51-42 and committed 18 turnovers, tried to answer Pekovic’s driving layup and free throw in the final minute on their next possession, trailing 94-91.
But Lopez was called for an illegal screen and Brooklyn never scored again.
‘It’s tough. I am very disappointed in myself,” Lopez said. ”I felt the team played hard. [We] shot ourselves in the foot multiple times. I picked up the dumb foul. I didn’t take care of my responsibilities down on defense.”
“It’s hard to win, especially in crunch time like that,” added Nets shooting guard Joe Johnson, who led Brooklyn with 22 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter, but gave the ball away on the possession before Pekovic’s game-deciding bucket. “You have to take care of the ball and value your possession. We had two costly turnovers [down the stretch] and paid the price.”
Deron Williams continued to recapture his former All-Star form following offseason surgery on both of his ankles. The Nets’ $98 million point guard scored 19 points on 8-of-16 shooting and handed out six assists in a game-high 39 minutes.
”It’s the beautiful thing of the NBA, you get a chance to get back on the court in a couple of days,” said Williams. “It’s good that we’re playing the Knicks and we are always excited about that rivalry.”
Kevin Martin scored a game-high 26 points and rookie Andrew Wiggins, the top overall pick in this year’s draft, added 17 for the T-Wolves, who were behind 88-84 with just under three minutes to play following a tip-in basket by Johnson.
“We had a six, eight, six, four[-point] lead, and we just couldn’t add one more bucket and give one more shot or one more rebound to really take control of the game,” Hollins admitted.
“I just think we got stagnant a little bit instead of opening up the playbook as far as getting the ball moving,” added Johnson. “We stuck to a few things and just didn’t get what we were looking for.”
Jarrett Jack provided a lift off the bench with 14 points and Kevin Garnett grabbed 11 rebounds to offset a dismal 1-of-7 shooting performance for Brooklyn, which will try to get back on track against Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks here Friday night.
“It’s a team loss,” Hollins said. “Yes, I’m disappointed that it happened, but you know the other team deserved to win.”
* * *
While Brooklyn’s current team, the Nets, continues to chase its first NBA title, our borough’s former pro sports franchise, the Dodgers, still have some unfinished business when it comes to the Hall of Fame.
Gil Hodges, one of the Majors’ top first basemen for nearly two decades and the manager of the 1969 World Series champion New York Mets, has still not been elected to Cooperstown.
A candidate on this year’s Golden Era ballot, Hodges, whose wife Joan still lives in Brooklyn, should get the nod this year via the 16-member committee that will make the final vote in December.
An eight-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove winner and key member of Brooklyn’s lone World Series-winning team in 1955, Hodges has been kept out of the Hall for far too long.
A national petition is currently being circulated to boost Hodges’ chances in advance of next month’s vote. Add your name to the list here.
The petition will remain open until Nov. 13.
Nothing But Net: Wednesday’s loss marked the first time this season the Nets were held below 100 points. They entered the contest averaging 107.7 per game. … Fs Mirza Teletovic and rookie Bojan Bogdanovich each added nine points against the T-Wolves.
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