Tonight, the Brooklyn Nets will host the injury-ravaged Minnesota Timberwolves at Barclays Center. The Nets come into this game with a 1-0 record after defeating the Toronto Raptors on Saturday at home. The Timberwolves are 1-1, with a win over Sacramento on opening night and a blowout loss to Toronto last night. This will be the second game of a back-to-back for the Timberwolves.
The Timberwolves will be without their best two players, Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, in this game. Until at least one of those players returns to the court, this team will have trouble winning basketball games. We can tell this from their performance last night, getting blown out by a not-especially-good Toronto team. Minnesota will be lead by two foreign players, Andrei Kirilenko and Nikola Pekovic. Both are pretty good players, but this team needs Rubio and Love to be successful.
One interesting note from this game is that both Kirilenko and Alexey Shved are Russian and they both know Mikhail Prokhorov. The Nets wanted to sign Kirilenko in the offseason, but Minnesota outbid Brooklyn.
For the Nets, Brooklyn looks to build on its opening night win over the Raptors. The Nets clearly have more talent than the Timberwolves in this game and on paper it should be an easy win. I expect the Nets to be 2-0 before heading to South Beach for their first big test of the season on Wednesday. This game will be televised on YES and NBA TV.
Injuries: As mentioned earlier, both Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio will miss this game for Minnesota. Additionally, JJ Barea, the crafty bench guard, suffered a concussion last night against Toronto and he is doubtful for Minnesota. For Brooklyn, Josh Childress will probably not play again. Gerald Wallace is a game-time decision. This should be an easy enough game that if I’m the Nets, I play this safe and rest Crash. We will see how he feels prior to the game.
Deron Williams vs. Luke Ridnour. Advantage: Williams
Luke Ridnour is not a bad basketball player, but he is just a placeholder for the Timberwolves until Ricky Rubio returns. He doesn’t do anything spectacularly well but he can manage the game and get the ball to the other players. I remember I went to a game a long time ago when Ridnour was on Seattle and he led the Sonics to a win over the New Jersey Nets by scoring 30+ points. I don’t think he will do that tonight. Deron probably won’t need to play very much tonight for the Nets to win this game. Expect him to play around 30 minutes and pass much more than he shoots.
Joe Johnson vs. Brandon Roy. Advantage: Johnson
Roy was a superstar when he was with Portland before his many injuries. After retiring last season, he is back with Minnesota this year. Last night against Toronto, he had a very bad game, shooting 0-3 from the field and turning the ball over 5 times. Joe Johnson is bigger than Roy and has more muscle. Expect some post-up situations with Johnson tonight. Look for him to be more involved in the offense than he was on opening night.
Gerald Wallace (?) vs. Andrei Kirilenko. Advantage: Kirilenko
Gerald Wallace suffered an injury at the end of the game on Saturday and he will likely be a game-time decision. Even if he does play, Kirilenko probably has the advantage. The Nets wanted to get Kirilenko this offseason, but obviously couldn’t match the T-Wolves’ $20 million offer. Kirilenko was out of the NBA last year, but he can still play at a high level. He won’t score a whole lot, but he can do a little bit of everything. He is a valuable player to Minnesota. If Wallace cannot play, expect to see either C.J. Watson or Marshon Brooks in the starting lineup.
Kris Humphries vs. Derrick Williams. Advantage: Humphries
Derrick Williams had a disappointing rookie season last year and was mentioned in some trade rumors in the offseason. However, he is back in Minnesota and he will start tonight. He is not a great matchup for The Hump because he is a shooting power forward, which is the kind of 4 that Kris struggles to guard. If Gerald Wallace can play, he may have to switch onto Williams sometimes. Luckily, Williams was only a 27% 3-point shooter last year so hopefully he won’t burn the Nets if he is left open.
Brook Lopez vs. Nikola Pekovic. Advantage: Lopez
Pekovic had an absolutely monster game against the Nets last year, scoring 27 points and grabbing 11 rebounds off the bench in a Timberwolves win. However, in that game, the Nets had Shelden Williams starting at center and now they have Brook Lopez. The Wolves don’t have a very big lineup, especially without Kevin Love playing, and Brook Lopez will take advantage of that. I expect another big game from him, possibly scoring 30 points. Pekovic might also have a good game, because he might be this team’s best scoring option right now.
Prediction: Nets 110, Timberwolves 89
If the Nets want to take the step this year in becoming an eastern conference contender, this is a game that they need to easily win. And I think they will do that. Minnesota is devastated by injuries and the Nets should take advantage of that. Until at least one of the Rubio/Love duo comes back, the Timberwolves will not be winning many games. This should be a very easy win for Brooklyn.