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Don’t count these Nets out just yet

Brooklyn Remains in Playoff Hunt with Second Straight Victory

March 17, 2015 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Joe Johnson led the way with 22 points Monday night as Brooklyn continued to push for one of the final Eastern Conference playoff spots with an easy win in Minnesota. AP photo
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Lionel Hollins hasn’t given up, and neither it appears, has his team.

The Brooklyn Nets remained on the periphery of the Eastern Conference playoff race Monday night by decimating a shorthanded Minnesota Timberwolves squad, pounding their way to a 122-106 rout in front of 14,234 fans at the Target Center.

Joe Johnson scored 22 points, rookie Bojan Bogdanovic added 21 and former T-Wolves forward Thaddeus Young, acquired in the deal that sent Kevin Garnett back home to Minnesota, added 19 as Brooklyn won its second straight since a five-game losing streak.

The Nets dominated along the interior against a smaller Minnesota lineup, which was without Garnett (sore knee) and center Nokola Pekovic and dressed only eight players.

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Brooklyn put up a franchise record 78 points in the paint as getting to the basket was doubtlessly made easier by the T-Wolves’ lack of interior firepower.

“As I’ve said before, since the All-Star break we’re leading the league in points in the paint,” Hollins said. “We found something in the pick-and-roll that was really good. We exploited it. We executed it to perfection.”

With the win, the Nets continued to avoid moving closer to playoff extinction after reaching the postseason in each of their first two seasons in our fair borough.

Just last week, Hollins intimated that despite their ongoing struggles, the Nets would “fight until the end.”

The team responded by posting a 94-87 win at Philadelphia on Saturday behind 21 points from Young, who has infused the roster with a renewed energy since arriving just prior to last month’s trade deadline.

“[Young] can get a rebound, come and dribble, and make the correct play on the break,” Hollins said. “He can post up. He’s shot the ball better from the three-point line than I ever knew him to be able to do. He gets steals and creates havoc on defense.’’

By beating up on Minnesota, Brooklyn (26-38) moved within 2 ½ games of Indiana, Miami and Boston (all at 30-36) for the final two playoff spots in the East with 18 regular-season contests remaining.

“Us coming out, getting me going, getting guys driving to the paint and making plays for other guys and getting Brook [Lopez] going, if we can do those type of things each and every game, we’ll be fine,” Young told the Associated Press.

Lopez finished with 16 points, becoming the sixth Net ever to reach 7,000 career points, as Brooklyn shot a blistering 58 percent from the field, including an otherworldly 70 percent in the paint.

Brooklyn will try to continue its better-late-than-never playoff push Wednesday night in Cleveland before Friday night’s home game against former coach Jason Kidd and the Milwaukee Bucks.

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