The last time the Brooklyn Nets squared up against the Minnesota Timberwolves they lost their brightest star to injury on their way to a 113-120 loss. You couldn’t fault the effort of the players as you could see the emotional toll of the incident clearly had a profound effect on the team. This time around there’ll be no excuses for a poor showing.
Dominate With Their Second Unit
The Nets don’t have anyone as talented as Karl-Anthony Towns on their roster but they do boast enviable depth. Coach Thibodeau is known to lean heavily on his starters, though he has eased up on that since trading Jimmy Butler. Their new forward, Robert Covington, has played less than 37 minutes only once since arriving, where he played 23 minutes in what was a comfortable win over Portland.
The Timberwolves rotation doesn’t stretch further than 9 deep. Atkinson, on the other hand, has a consistent 10-man rotation and could easily extend it to 11 with the talent at his disposal. Alongside Clippers center Montrezl Harrell, Ed Davis is one of the premier backup bigs in the league. Spencer Dinwiddie has elevated himself into the Sixth Man of the Year conversation and guys like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Shabazz Napier and DeMarre Carroll are no slouches either.
Brooklyn has the fifth best scoring bench unit in the league while Minnesota has the second worst. The Nets should look to exploit that advantage to help them secure their 9th win.
Have the Backcourt Dictate Proceedings
On paper, both teams are pretty evenly matched with their guard talent. Jeff Teague, Derrick Rose, and Tyus Jones are by no means world beaters even with the resurgent form of Rose so far this season. Wiggins is their most gifted guard, even though he should be utilized far more often at the forward position.
Brooklyn’s is solid across the board in the guard department. Russell is the fulcrum with his ability to score and facilitate at a high level. Dinwiddie’s probably on par with him and has taken steps forward in terms of offensive efficiency. Napier is the perfect backup that provides instant energy when inserted into the lineup. With Crabbe’s return to form the team has two legitimate perimeter threats that can knock down the three at an elite clip.
Pressure the Paint
Driving and attacking the rim relentlessly has been a major emphasis on offense for the Nets this season. The team is ranked ninth in the NBA for points in the paint with 50.2 points per contest. Minnesota doesn’t possess the greatest amount of defensive acumen around the rim so Brooklyn should look to get to the area at will. If they do, they increase their chances of getting someone like Towns in foul trouble.
The Timberwolves aren’t notorious for their attack into the restricted area. They rank 19th in the league for points in the paint per game (45.7). With Jarrett Allen developing into one of the leagues more formidable rim protectors, he’s not going to make it easy for Minnesota to get easy buckets down low.
Russell has shown more glimpses at showing aggression to get to the rim. He has a lovely floater but if he starts to drive more constantly the space for that shot will only open up further for him. Dinwiddie is unconscious in his ability to exploit mismatches and Davis feasts on points in the restricted area like his life depend on it. Whichever team gains the ascendancy down low will give themselves a great shot at netting the W.