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Nets lose fourth straight to Timberwolves, Ben Simmons injured in loss

Kevin Ollie demanded better fortitude entering Saturday’s matchup against the No. 1 team in the Western Conference and his team responded for 36 minutes. The Nets ultimately dropped their fourth straight to the Minnesota Timberwolves, 101-86. Ollie begins his tenure as interim head coach 0-2.

The Nets held Minnesota to 40.3% shooting through three quarters. While they shot significantly worse over that span (33.3%), they did not allow missed shots to dictate their defensive effort — a major coaching point following Thursday’s loss to the Toronto Raptors.

Brooklyn (21-35) entered the fourth quarter trailing by just four points. They led, 72-70, with 9:28 left. But Anthony Edwards couldn’t be denied only for so long. The two-time All-Star ignited as the Nets’ offense continued to falter, scoring 11 of his game-high 29 points to rally Minnesota late in regulation. At one point he poured nine in a row, showing out down the stretch.

New Jersey native Karl-Anthony Towns added 28 points and nine rebounds in the Wolves’ 40th win of the season. Minnesota ended the game on a 22-8 run and won by 15 points despite attempting 20 less shots than the Nets.

“They were just making shots and we weren’t. It just comes down to that,” Ollie said. “I think we did a great job coming together as a team and facing adversity throughout the game. We have to make shots… And we had great looks.”

Brooklyn, which shot just 33.7% for the game including 6-of-35 from 3-point range, is averaging 89.5 points per game in its first two appearances under Ollie. While they did not give up a franchise-worst 46 points in transition, like on Thursday night in Toronto, they were still outscored 25-6 in fastbreak points.

“It’s just pointing and talking, getting in front of the basketball,” Ollie said. “A lot of that stuff happened in the fourth quarter.”

Just two of the team’s season-low six treys came from starting players. Its 86 points tied the second-lowest scoring output of the season. The Nets have lost seven of their last eight games but remain in 11th place in the Eastern Conference standings, 3.5 games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the final Play-In Spot.

Cam Thomas finished with a team-high 18 points on 7-of-19 shooting. Ollie went 11 deep in the loss. Minnesota was playing in the second game of a back-to-back set.

To add to the already growing levels of concern in Brooklyn, Ben Simmons, who missed 38-straight games earlier this season because of a pinched nerve in his lower back, exited the game with 8:04 left and did not return.

It is a leg issue and not a knee injury, according to the team, and there are currently no plans for Simmons to undergo any imaging at this time. But given his injury history, it is hard not to hold your breath. The Nets need all hands on deck, especially No. 10, to pull themselves out of this current funk.

Brooklyn’s four-game road trip will continue on Monday against the Memphis Grizzlies.

“I just told them, keep believing,” Ollie said. “We get those looks over this period of time these next games, we will win. We just have to understand that process.”