MINNEAPOLIS -- They were supposed to have already learned their lesson, knowing that an extremely undermanned team can be desperate and shouldn't be taken lightly.
After all, they were playing the Timberwolves last night, the very team that came into Brooklyn the first weekend of the season without the likes of Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, yet still fought back from a 22-point deficit to hand the Nets one of their uglier losses of the season. So with revenge on the Nets' minds, and Minnesota missing Love, Nikola Pekovic and Alexey Shved, this should have been relatively easy.
But nothing is simple by the Nets' standards.
They needed a big fourth quarter from C.J. Watson, among others, and rode the back of their playmaking backcourt to secure a 91-83 victory -- their third in a row -- over the Wolves at the Target Center.
"Any time you play a team like this, and we've talked about it all year, they're dangerous," Deron Williams said. "They've got a couple of guys out, but these other guys are hungry. They want the minutes, the relish the minutes. So, they came out ready to play. They battled, so it wasn't a cakewalk just because they had a couple of guys out.
"But we could have played better, especially on the defensive end. We were really careless with the ball and I think a lot of their points were off turnovers and we might have been able to take them out of the game early if it weren't for those."
Brook Lopez, on the eve before the All-Star reserves are announced, paced the Nets (26-16) with 22 points and seven rebounds. Joe Johnson added 18 points and Deron Williams had 18 points, seven assists and five rebounds for the Nets, who also got 14 huge points from Watson off the bench and improved to 12-2 under interim coach P.J Carlesimo and 10-1 this month.
Andrei Kirilenko led the Wolves (17-22) with 15 points.
Up by a minuscule 68-64 margin entering the fourth, after an atrocious shooting display in the third quarter in which they hit just 6-of-20 attempts, the Nets found themselves in a tight one. Minnesota cut the Nets' lead to two on two occasions, but Watson got hot in the fourth and really ignited the Nets offensively, scoring nine big points.
"He played great," Williams said. "He was the reason we were able go get our confidence back in that fourth quarter."
Watson even drew an offensive foul on J.J Barea in the fourth with the Nets leading 72-68.
"J.J. Barea's a flopping guy, so I tried to give him a taste of his own medicine," Watson said in his postgame chat on the YES Network. "I hope I don't get fined, though."
Johnson nailed a big three-pointer with 5:14 left to push the Nets' advantage up to 80-74 and Lopez's dunk with a little over four minutes remaining off a nice feed increased the lead to 82-74 before. Barea's three-pointer with 2:37 left trimmed the Nets' lead to 82-77, but the Nets managed to close Minnesota out.
"We really wanted to kind of put them away," Johnson said. "But we had a couple of bone-head plays here and there and it led to a couple of big shots for them. They kind of gained the momentum. It got them back in the game and from that point on, it was a good game."