#Nets Blow 22 Point Lead, Avery Johnson Says Team “Got a Long Way to Go”

Josh Newman, SNYNets.com

NEW YORK —The Brooklyn Nets let the Toronto Raptors hang around late in the season-opener on Saturday night, but still pulled out a victory. The Nets let the Minnesota Timberwolves, who are still without Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, hang around late in Monday evening’s game and it cost them.

Leading by 22 points late in the third quarter, the Nets squandered that lead, scored just two points over the last 5:23 and fell to the Timberwolves, 107-96, in front of 14,017 at Barclays Center.

Nikola Pekovic had a strong start down low against Brook Lopez on his way to a game-high 21 points to lead five T-wolves in double figures. Andrei Kirilenko (16 points, 10 rebounds) and Dante Cunningham (11 points, 11 rebounds) each finished with double-doubles in the win.

For the Nets, Deron Williams finished with 18 points and 13 assists, while Joe Johnson scored a team-high 19 points.

The Fourth Quarter

The Nets were outscored 32-10 in the fourth quarter and ultimately lost to a Timberwolves squad playing the second game of a back-to-back. The T-Wolves were coming off of a 105-86 loss at the Toronto Raptors on Sunday evening.

Chase Budinger scored eight of his 16 points in the fourth quarter and rookie guard Alexey Shved had all 10 of his points over the final 12:00, including the go-ahead basket with 2:35 to play.

Aside from two points over the final 5:23, the numbers from Nets’ side of things in the fourth quarter were scary. They were 4-for-17 from the field, 0-for-3 from 3-point range and were out-rebounded, 19-4.

“We just relaxed defensively,” Nets head coach Avery Johnson said. “We started trading baskets with them in the third quarter and never really could get stops. When we stopped scoring, they continued to score, so give them a lot of credit. Like I’ve said along, we’ve got a long way to go.”

A Tough Night For Lopez

After an encouraging outing on Saturday against the Raptors, Lopez was hammered early by Pekovic and struggled throughout, finishing with just nine points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes.

Pekovic was considered a top 10 prospect prior to the 2008 NBA Draft, but concerns about buying out his European deal caused him to slip down the board. He was eventually selected 31st overall and is beginning to show some of that promise. Pekovic began the game by hitting four of his first five and scoring 10 points, though he eventually went to the bench with foul trouble.

Greg Stiemsma, his backup, also got into foul trouble, but the second half brought a new beginning. Pekovic hung tough and made Lopez’s night tough. When it was all said and done, Lopez was searching for answers.

“I wasn’t at my best tonight when I needed to be,” a stoic Lopez said after the game. “It was tough. We didn’t do very well on the pick-and-roll defense, they made plays and we didn’t. We have to take accountability.”

To Shoot, or Not To Shoot

After Saturday’s victory over the Raptors, some thought that the 15 3-pointers the Nets took were too much. The thought was that they should be more patient and find better, higher percentage shots. However, Avery Johnson didn’t necessarily agree with that opinion on Saturday and the Nets performance on Monday night showed that.

Two nights after gong 6-for-15 from 3-point range against the Raptors, the Nets went 13-for-23 against the Timberwolves. On Monday night, nobody was complaining about the three-point shooting during the first three quarters.

Saturday saw the Nets go 3-for-8 from deep during the first quarter, but they followed that by toning down the deep shooting and outplaying the Raptors over the final three quarters in a 107-100 victory. That didn’t happen on Monday, so whether or not the Nets continue to shoot three-pointers is something that we should pay attention to.

On Monday, from behind the arc, Joe Johnson was 3-for-5 and Keith Bogans was 3-for-4. Bogans started in place of the injured Gerald Wallace. As of now, the Nets are preparing to play without Wallace on Wednesday night when they travel to Miami to battle the Heat, but his status will be updated over the next few days.

Bogans Gives Good Minutes

In an effort to not disrupt his rotation, Avery Johnson started Bogans in place of Wallace instead of C.J. Watson or MarShon Brooks, and Bogans came through.

In 14 minutes, the former University of Kentucky star finished with nine points after his 3-for-4 night from deep. He opened the game with a 3-pointer from the left baseline just 23 seconds in.

“I thought Bogans gave us a little lift there early,” Avery Johnson said. “I couldn’t stretch him out anymore minutes than he played, but I thought he did okay early in the game.”

Wallace’s status is still day-to-day with a sprained left ankle. After playing a small Timberwolves lineup, a small Miami Heat lineup awaits on Wednesday.

Taylor, Teletovic Make Debuts

Wallace’s absence removed one rotation player from the Nets, so rookie point guard Tyshawn Taylor was called upon to play some minutes and made his NBA debut in the opening minute of the second quarter.

Over a span of 5:58 in that second quarter, Taylor made his only shot—a 5-foot jumper in traffic—and had a plus-minus of +6, as he helped the Nets outscore the Timberwolves, 16-10, in his six minutes of action.

Former Euroleague star Mirza Teletovic also made his NBA debut Monday and in his short floor time, he did exactly what he was brought into do—shoot.

Teletovic checked in with 7.6 seconds to play in the first half and after Timberwolves point guard Luke Ridnour hit a free throw, Williams rushed the ball up the floor with Teletovic trailing the play. The ball wound up in his hands and without hesitation, he fired and hit a 3-pointer to end a dominant first half for the Nets. At halftime, they led, 62-47.

Teletovic played just four minutes but made two of his three shots and finished with five points.

Final Word

“We should be able to put teams away and keep them at distance and not give up a 22-point lead. It’s definitely disappointing, definitely embarrassing giving who they’re missing.”–Deron Williams

Josh Newman is SNYNets.com’s Field Reporter. Follow him on Twitter for up to the minute news and banter on all things related to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA.