Nets-Timberwolves Preview

The Associated Press

Given Brooklyn's success this month and Minnesota's lengthy rough stretch, the Nets may have a good chance to end their road struggles against the Timberwolves.

Looking for a third consecutive victory overall, the Nets try to avoid a ninth straight road loss to the Timberwolves on Wednesday night.

A winner of 11 of 13, Brooklyn (25-16) improved to 9-1 in January with an 88-85 win at New York at on Monday. Joe Johnson scored 25 points and hit the go-ahead jumper with 22 seconds left to help the Nets move within a game of the Atlantic Division-leading Knicks.

"It's a confidence booster for us," Johnson said. "It just goes to show we've come a long way and we're still trying to get better."

Brooklyn averaged 83.5 points while shooting 40.0 percent during a four-game road skid to end December. While winning four of five away from home in January, the Nets have put up 103.4 and shot 45.7 percent. Johnson has averaged 21.2 points in those five contests.

The Nets hope that success continues with a visit to Minnesota, where they are 4-17 all-time and have averaged 87.8 points during an eight-game slide that dates to Nov. 23, 2002. Brooklyn has lost two in a row and six of seven overall to the Timberwolves after a 107-96 loss Nov. 5.

Johnson scored 19 and Deron Williams added 18 points and 13 assists, but the Timberwolves (17-21) made half of their field-goal attempts for the game and outscored the hosts 32-10 in the fourth quarter.

Though Minnesota won that game without stars Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, the Timberwolves could have a difficult time continuing their series success Wednesday. Love will miss his 10th straight game, guard Malcolm Lee and forward Chase Budinger are also out and center Nikola Pekovic and rookie Alexey Shved could both sit for a third consecutive contest.

"We can't afford to lose anybody else,'' forward Derrick Williams said. "There are people playing with injuries."

The Timberwolves have gone 5-12 in their last 17, and they've averaged 89.6 points and allowed 100.3 while dropping six of seven. Minnesota blew an 18-point second-quarter lead and allowed Atlanta to shoot 57.7 percent in a 104-96 road loss Monday.

The Hawks outscored the Timberwolves 60-38 in the second half and went on a 35-17 run that spanned portions of the second and third quarters.

Minnesota averages an NBA-low 21.7 points in the third quarter, with Brooklyn at 22.1. The Timberwolves, however, have been outscored in that period in each of the last 12 games.

"Like I've been saying all year, the third quarter has been killing us," said Williams, who had eight points and shot 3 of 12 versus Brooklyn in November. "As long as we pick it up in that quarter I think we can win more games.''

Minnesota is 2-6 under assistant Terry Porter, who continues to coach the team while Rick Adelman cares for his sick wife. It's possible Adelman could return to the team this week.

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