Mikhail Prokhorov navigated his way through the Barclays Center's underbelly and was walking briskly to his awaiting car after his team's disappointing effort against the Timberwolves, a scenario that might've had the Nets owner feeling as if he rode to Brooklyn in a time machine instead.
Two years ago during the franchise's inaugural season in Brooklyn, the Nets were riding an emotional wave days into the aftermath of their first win of the season in their building, only to play flat in a deflating loss to a less talented Minnesota team -- a game that caused its share of frustration like Wednesday night's contest.
Just hold up a spool of yarn by one end and throw it. Essentially, that accurately would describe what happened to the Nets in the closing moments against Minnesota this time around. On a night when Brook Lopez was far from his best, the Nets unraveled when things got tense at the end.
Joe Johnson, the Nets' go-to guy and one they always count on in the clutch, had a critical turnover with a little more than a minute remaining and Lopez was whistled for a brutal offensive foul just 16 seconds later. Those two costly gaffes fully opened the door for the young, scrappy Timberwolves to make a few big plays in the end and send the Nets to a rough 98-91 loss in front of 16,302 fans at the Barclays Center.
"It's hard to win, especially in crunchtime like that," Johnson said. "You've got to take care of the ball and value every possession. We had two costly turnovers and we paid the price tonight."
Lopez followed up Monday's strong performance with a dud, nailing only 5 of 14 shots and missing eight straight at one point in the first quarter. The Nets' 7-footer mustered just 10 points and five rebounds for the Nets (2-2), who had bounced back from a 15-point first-quarter deficit and led by six points with 6:07 remaining but never could put any significant distance between themselves and Minnesota (2-2).
Nikola Pekovic pummeled Lopez inside to the tune of 16 points and 11 rebounds, mostly making the Nets' big man look small at times. When Johnson uncharacteristically coughed up the ball with 1:04 remaining, it led to a fast break punctuated when Pekovic banked in a shot while getting fouled by an incredulous Lopez, putting Minnesota ahead 94-91 on that three-point play.
"Well, the guy whipped him. It happens," Nets coach Lionel Hollins said. "You've got to give Pekovic his credit I'm always saying that there is always a badder man than you in the prison. You've got to do it every night and Pek won tonight."
Lopez took full blame. He was called for an offensive foul as he tried to set a pick on Ricky Rubio on the ensuing possession and Thaddeus Young's floater off a Rubio assist on the next play handed the Wolves a 96-91 lead
"It's tough," Lopez said. "I'm very disappointed in myself and I felt that the team played hard. We shot ourselves in the foot multiple times and I picked up a dumb foul. I didn't take care of my responsibilities on defense down the line and I'm just very disappointed in myself tonight.
"I'm not happy."
A downtrodden Lopez barely lifted his head as he spoke and he was visibly upset with his performance. Failing to come through was burning him up, but Kevin Garnett was quick to come to Lopez's defense.
"It's not a one-on-one game," Garnett said. "That onus is on all of us. In this league, I've seen countless people get on fire, and it's usually the guy that you are guarding in different matchups or whatever. It's not just on Brook. The onus is on everybody. Pekovic had a great game and he's a load down there."