Timberwolves come back to beat Nets in opener

Nets coach Lawrence Frank after Wednesday night's loss to the Wolves

Nets coach Lawrence Frank after Wednesday night's loss to the Wolves

                    Photo by Pro-Zak

(Ok, so that's not really Lawrence Frank). This video seems to prove that the Timberwolves won their first game of the year, 95-93 over the New Jersey Nets, on a buzzer-beating putback by Damien Wilkins. However, this strikes me as a little unbelievable considering that the Wolves were down by 16 points in the fourth quarter, their star player was hobbling and sick, they shot a chilling 36.6% from the floor, and continually looked frustrated and befuddled on defense. But you know me, I believe almost everything I see. In any case, here are some notes on the whole affair: 

  • Corey Brewer was hot, reckless and out of control. He missed 10 of his first 11 shots, most of them layups, and contorted his hyperactive, willowy body in surprising and disturbing new ways on almost every one. He jumped off the wrong foot; he blindly threw the ball over his shoulder; he looked like he was playing with the older boys. Of course, he also played maniacal defense, chased down the ball with abandon, initiated the fast break and was the energetic core of the Wolves frantic comeback. And he also somehow managed to hit a feathery 17-footer with 1:33 to bring the Wolves within one. I think he may be my favorite player in the NBA.

  •  As I alluded to above, Al Jefferson, battling through the flu and tendonitis, was a shadow of himself. He showed none of his customary graceful footwork, was a step slow on defense (save for a fine block on the Nets' Brook Lopez in the final minute of the game), and was regularly beaten to rebounds and loose balls. What's more, he seemed aloof and short-tempered, only intermittently participating in team huddles, scowling up and down the court. As always, Jefferson is something of an enigma; it can be hard to tell if his sulky demeanor reflects on his frustrations with himself and his currently diminished physical state or with his circumstances. Hey Big Al: do you want to lead or be left alone?

  • Oh, and speaking of Lopez: he is really pretty good, especially for a grown man named Brook. He moved his strong, tall body with an intensity and seriousness of purpose (not to mention considerable skill) that made me kind of wish he played for the Wolves.
  • In just over 23 minutes of play, Wolves' rookie Wayne Ellington was a +13 (meaning his team outscored the opposition by 13 points when he was on the floor), by a wide margin the best score of any player in the game. Was this because he was one of the few players who could consistently hit a shot? Was he doing something subtly right on defense? Is this even significant? I can't say I'm really sure; let's say we keep our eyes on this in the coming weeks.
  • Jonny Flynn was on the floor during most of the Wolves' big fourth-quarter run and made some dynamic slashes to the basket throughout the game. But, as befits his status as a goggle-eyed rookie, he seemed a less decisive, less poised floor general than his backup, Ramon Sessions. As coach Kurt Rambis put it, Flynn was not able to "organize our offense," was not able to smoothly initiate the necessary rhythm and flow. So it was curious Rambis chose to allow him, rather than Sessions, to play nearly the entire fourth quarter. For now, lets call it baptism by fire.
  • As for Rambis, his first regular season, postgame press conference revealed him to be  well spoken, Californian in accent and temperament, and extremely focused and thoughtful--from all evidence, a pretty sharp, patient guy. And, for better or worse, a bit of a contrast to the goofy, iron-range self deprecations of his predecessor, Kevin McHale.
  • Hey, that was fun. Let's do it again.