The Nets missed the starting time at Barclays Center Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn. As the team seemingly went through the motions, the Minnesota Timberwolves cruised to a 100-85 win in a game that never felt close.
Minnesota led by as many as 20 points, and none of its starters needed to play more than 31 minutes. Only Brook Lopez gave the Nets the kind of effort necessary to win, accounting for 20 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists in the loss.
The players did not have many answers after the game, either. “We didn’t play hard. We didn’t show any resistance. The score is very indicative of that,” guard Jarrett Jack said.
Head coach Lionel Hollins took the blame for his team’s lack of energy throughout the game, but the players never ran their sets to completion. This accounted for a pace that was “way too slow,” according to forward Joe Johnson.
“That was a very, very disappointing loss and the way that we lost,” Hollins said. “I take responsibility for us not being out there and ready to go. Obviously, they are young and quick and they took advantage of us in some areas like that, but we have to be prepared to come out and try to keep them in a box, which we have done against other teams that have been quicker than us, as well.”
While the Nets can point to effort, the Timberwolves have more talent and more veteran leadership necessary to win games. Courtesy of suffering through years of bad basketball, the Timberwolves stayed the course through a true rebuild. The result: Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, and Karl Anthony-Towns.
The T’Wolves also had the wherewithal to bring in and retain veterans like Kevin Garnett, Andre Miller, and Tayshaun Prince, who have championship experience.
The Nets’ short-sightedness has cost them the opportunity to draft and develop generational talents. Instead, they will pray that Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Chris McCullough can develop into solid NBA players.
Aside from those two unproven rookies, the Nets may not have a roster piece who will be around when the team is theoretically ready to compete for a championship. Brett Yormark claimed the Nets would be “major players” in the upcoming free agency, but with the cap expected to rise dramatically, every team will be in a position to add marquee players.
Mailing in performances is not likely to attract many top-tier free agents. “It was nothing X’s and O’s or anything like that,” Lopez said. “It was just energy and effort. I don’t know if it was the 1:00 game or numerous excuses but we don’t want those. They just outplayed us. … They were getting a lot of easy layups and lots of different options on the pick-and-roll.”
The Nets’ nightmare season gets no easier, as Brooklyn will fly to Chicago and take on the Bulls Monday night. The Bulls are coming off back-to-back losses.