Pekovic powers Timberwolves' rally in Brooklyn

The SportsXchange

BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- Nikola Pekovic doesn't think he plays any differently against the Nets franchise, whether it's located in Brooklyn, New Jersey or anywhere else.

But the performances say otherwise.

The 6-foot-11 Pekovic, a third-year center out of Montenegro, had 27 points and 11 rebounds in a win over the New Jersey Nets last February in Newark.

On Monday, Pekovic inflicted damage on the Nets once again, this time in their new home in Brooklyn, helping the Minnesota Timberwolves to a stunning 107-96 win at the Barclays Center. Minnesota overcame a 22-point, second-half deficit.

"I just try to play hard every game, no matter who we're playing," said Pekovic, who had 17 points in the first half, taking the ball aggressively to the basket repeatedly. He finished with 21 points and seven rebounds. "In this league, you'll have ups and downs, and this was an up for me. Tonight was just my night."

The Timberwolves (2-1), who lost 105-86 to the Toronto Raptors on Sunday night, looked totally listless in the first half as the Nets built a 62-47 lead. Brooklyn (1-1) pushed the lead to 71-49 with 10:06 left in the third period, raining 3-point baskets from all over the spanking new parquet floor in Brooklyn.

At one point, the Nets made 11 of 17 from long range, compared to a 1-for-10 stretch for Minnesota from 3-point distance.

"We kept fighting," Timberwolves point guard Jose Barea said. "We did such a good job just staying with it. Coach (Rick Adelman) did a good job making substitutions."

Adelman, who took over the coaching duties in Minnesota last year, praised his team.

"Obviously, this is just a terrific win," Adelman said. "(The Nets) shot the ball so well for three quarters, and we just kept talking about getting tougher down the stretch. We had to get stops at the start of the fourth quarter. We played with a real edge in the fourth quarter, and that turned the whole thing around."

The Timberwolves outscored the Nets 32-10 in the fourth period. Minnesota allowed the Nets to score just two points, both on free throws, over the final 5:23 of the game.

"Once we got close at the end of the third quarter, I knew we had a shot," said Minnesota reserve forward Chase Budinger, who scored 16 points and hit a dagger 3-pointer with 46 seconds left to seal the deal. "I wouldn't say I had a ton of wide open looks, but I had to make sure that I made the ones I had."

Pekovic hit a big basket down the stretch, a tough shot in the lane that increased the Timberwolves' lead to 100-96.

Andrei Kirilenko, who practically begged the Nets' management to sign him over the offseason so he could play for a team owned by fellow Russian Mikhail Prokhorov, dominated the Nets with his aggressive play around the basket. He finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Kirilenko teamed with Dante Cunningham (11 points, 11 rebounds) to give the Nets fits off the offensive glass in the second half.

"I don't think it's appropriate to talk about the other team," Kirilenko said. "I'm happy being a Minnesota Timberwolves now."

The Nets took an early lead in the first quarter, thanks to two 3-pointers from Keith Bogans, who was inserted into the starting lineup after Gerald Wallace was made inactive due to a sprained ankle.

Bogans, who played all of 28 seconds in the Nets' season-opening win over Toronto, was left unguarded both times and calmly canned both jumpers. He wound up with nine points on the night.

Brook Lopez had a fine first quarter, scoring nine consecutive points during one stretch that enabled Brooklyn to grab the lead. Lopez hit two shots off the glass and had a monstrous dunk in the lane, giving the Nets a 22-19 advantage.

Andray Blatche had a strong move down low that gave Brooklyn a 31-27 lead at the end of the first period.

The lead continued to grow throughout the first half and early in the second half before the Nets fell flat.

"It's really tough to lose this one," said guard Joe Johnson, who led Brooklyn with 19 points. "We were rolling along, playing good, having fun. Then we just didn't make shots. We'll be thinking about this one for a while. We understand how difficult it is to sustain shooting like that, but with a lead, we have to be able to overcome that. We can't give away leads like this. In this league, you have to have a short memory and move on to the next one."

NOTES: There was a major computer malfunction at the Barclays Center that prevented the final statistics from be posted at game's end. The glitch was so bad that there were wrong scores posted on several websites, including one score that had the Nets ahead by nine with 27.1 seconds left. The glitch was not fixed more than 90 minutes after the final horn. ... The Nets, who led the NBA last season in minutes lost due to injuries, already have a casualty two games into the season. Small forward Wallace sprained his ankle in the closing minutes of Brooklyn's season opener, and he did not dress Monday. His status remains day-to-day. He was spotted courtside late in the game, wearing a protective boot on his injured foot. ... The Timberwolves were short-handed, missing two of their top players, including Team USA Olympian Kevin Love, who is recovering from a broken hand. Flashy point guard Ricky Rubio is still rehabilitating a torn ACL and MCL he suffered last March 9. Love will miss six to eight weeks, while there is no timetable for Rubio's return.
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