MINNEAPOLIS - As if they needed any more reason to try to stomp on one of the league's worst teams early and make sure they didn't give the Timberwolves any life, all the Nets had to do was look at all the injured talent Minnesota had glued to its bench Monday night.
"We are just like the hotel Super 8," Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said before tipoff at Target Center.
That was Saunders' way of noting that he had only eight players available for the tail end of a back-to-back. The Timberwolves were without Kevin Garnett, Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and Gary Neal -- and not even the Nets could blow this one, though it took them a while to get going.
Leading by only four after the first quarter, the Nets kicked it into high gear in the second quarter and powered their way to a 122-106 victory over Minnesota, refusing to let a winnable game slip through their grasp.
"It was very important, man," Joe Johnson said after scoring 22 points and shooting 10-for-14. "In this game, you can't worry about who's playing. You've just got to go out there and handle business. And I thought we did a pretty good job at that."
Especially on the interior. The Nets torched Minnesota to the tune of a franchise-record 78 points in the paint.
Given that the Timberwolves (15-52), who were paced by Kevin Martin's 23 points, had no legitimate interior presence because of the absence of Pekovic and Garnett, the Nets were able to feast inside. They essentially got any shot they chose, driving it to the rim and dumping it off to someone waiting underneath.
So what's gotten into them? Is it strictly because of the addition of Thaddeus Young? He was traded for Garnett and scored 19 against his old team to help the Nets climb to within 21/2 games of eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
"It's definitely a combination," said Brook Lopez, who scored 16 points, as did Jarrett Jack. "No question it helps having Thaddeus, but I think we've stopped settling for shooting a lot of threes and jumpers and just kept attacking, drawing people and sharing the ball."
Perhaps that will help the Nets get into the playoffs for a third straight season. But they Nets know they can't peek that far ahead, particularly with games against the Cavaliers, Bucks and Pacers on tap in a four-day span beginning Wednesday.
"We just, two games ago, came off a skid where we lost five in a row," Young said. "So we are trying to make up some ground and close in on some of the other teams that's in front of us and try to get back in the playoff hunt."