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Timberwolves topple Nets

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Updated 12 months ago on
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NEW YORK — The Minnesota Timberwolves might sport one of the youngest rosters in the NBA, but they managed to sneak out with a road win Wednesday night against one of the league’s oldest teams by counting on their veterans down the stretch.

“We might be young, but tonight we showed we can be mature,” said veteran center Nikola Pekovic, whose huge 3-point play with 48.6 seconds left helped the Timberwolves defeat the Brooklyn Nets 98-91 at the Barclays Center.

“Last year, this would have been a tough loss, but this is a sign of our growth. We just had to stay positive and stay together and we came up huge.”

With the score tied 91-91, Pekovic, who had 16 points and 11 rebounds, took a pass from point guard Ricky Rubio and went straight at Nets center Brook Lopez, who was playing in only his second game in 11 months. Pekovic made the shot off glass, got fouled and sank the free throw, giving Minnesota (2-2) the lead for good at 94-91.

“That was the plan,” Pekovic said. “Coach (Flip Saunders) called the play for me and Ricky was just trying to find something there. This was a team win, that’s for sure.”

After Pekovic’s play, Brooklyn turned the ball over on an offensive foul. Forward Thaddeus Young (10 points, 11 rebounds) made a running shot in the lane that pushed the lead to 96-91, capping a 9-0 run and sealing the victory for the Timberwolves, who feature three rookies and four other players with one year of experience on their roster.

“The main thing was that we played hard for all 48 minutes,” Saunders said. “We executed our offense pretty well down the stretch. Pek got it going and made the play. K-Mart (Kevin Martin) also made some big shots.

“It’s nice to come here and get a win. We’ve had a chance to win every game. With our kids, that’s all we can ask for. It’s positive reinforcement.”

Martin led all scorers with 26 points, getting the game’s final points on two free throws.

Minnesota outscored Brooklyn 18-5 in the final four minutes.

Besides Martin’s 26 points, the Timberwolves got 17 points from rookie forward Andrew Wiggins in easily his best game to date. Guard Ricky Rubio chipped in with 14 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds.

“It was a great win to start a long road trip (three-game swing),” Rubio said. “We showed everyone tonight what we can do. We’re going to fight every game and be tough in every game.”

Saunders said, “Anytime you can get a win on the road against a team with four All-Stars is positive reinforcement. We battled and that’s what we’re trying to establish with a young team.”

The Nets were led by forward Joe Johnson, who had 22 points. Point guard Deron Williams added 19 and guard Jarrett Jack had 14 off the bench for Brooklyn.

In the first eight minutes of the game, it appeared as if the Timberwolves were going to run the Nets right out of their own arena.

All five Wolves starters reached the scorebook in a 17-2 run, with Rubio draining two 3-pointers and Wiggins scoring five points during that stretch.

The Nets misfired on 10 of their first 11 attempts from the floor but then started to catch fire toward the end of the first quarter. Brooklyn sliced the deficit to 24-21 at the end of the quarter with an 11-0 run.

The teams traded the lead for the remainder of the half. Mirza Teletovic canned a 3-pointer with eight seconds left to give Brooklyn a 48-47 lead before halftime.

Wiggins drained a long 3-pointer to put Minnesota up 69-60 with 3:40 left in the third quarter, giving the Timberwolves their biggest lead since the opening stages of the game. Minnesota led 72-66 at the end of the third quarter.

NOTES: Before scoring 17 points Wednesday, Timberwolves rookie F Andrew Wiggins averaged just 7.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in his first three NBA games. That was fine with Minnesota coach Flip Saunders. “You have to remember he’s just 19 years old. He will be fine,” Saunders said. … Nets PG Deron Williams likes the chemistry he shares with new teammate Jarret Jack. “It’s always good to have two point guards,” said Williams, who averaged 17 points and eight assists in the first three games. … Nets F Kevin Garnett looks as if he is playing an increased role under new coach Lionel Hollins. “We’re passing the ball better, and that has benefited KG,” Hollins said. … The Nets continue their four-game homestand with games against the New York Knicks on Friday and the Orlando Magic on Sunday. … Minnesota plays at Orlando on Friday and at the Miami Heat on Saturday.

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