Ignoring the social and political turmoil surrounding them in Minneapolis, the shorthanded Nets put on an overwhelming performance, leading by as much as 45 points on their way to a 127-97 blowout of the Timberwolves in their rescheduled game Tuesday afternoon at Target Center.
Of course, the Timberwolves played without All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns, who sat out on the one-year anniversary of the death of his mother, Jackie, from COVID-19 complications. But it hardly affected the outcome as the Nets (37-17) regained a first-place tie with the 76ers in the Eastern Conference ahead of their game Wednesday night in Philadelphia.
The game was scheduled Monday night and postponed because of public safety concerns following the police killing of unarmed 20-year-old Black man Daunte Wright in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center. The Wright shooting came during the ongoing trial for Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is one of four officers charged with the killing last May in Minneapolis of George Floyd.
Describing the atmosphere in which the afternoon game was played with no fans, Nets star Kevin Durant said, "Guys are obviously aware of what’s going on in our country, and we have conversations about this all the time. Our dialogue is never going to stop on how we can better our society, and a lot of guys are doing their part on this team.
"I’m glad the NBA made this game happen and not postpone it and [we're] out there for nothing. I’m glad we finished it off, and we’re going to keep showing our support for what’s going on but also knowing we’ve got a job to do."
Durant topped the Nets with 31 points on 11-for-15 shooting in 27 minutes, Joe Harris added 23 points, including 5-for-8 accuracy from three-point range, Landry Shamet totaled 19 points, and DeAndre Jordan had 13 points and seven rebounds after sitting out the previous five games. The Nets outrebounded Minnesota by 57-44 and recorded 31 assists.
Anthony Edwards led the Timberwolves with 27 points, and former Net D’Angelo Russell finished with 15 points but had two points and was 0-was-7 shooting from the field after the opening quarter.
Despite being shorthanded without Kyrie Irving, James Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge and Tyler Johnson and the fact they were coming off a blowout home loss to the Lakers, the Nets came out quickly and never let up.
"We started a lot better, which has been sort of a focal point for us as of late just because it seems we’ve been a little bit slow out of the gates since the All-Star break," Harris said. "So for us to come out and kind of impose ourselves early on was a good sign."
Early in the third quarter, the Nets blew things wide-open with an 18-7 run that included eight points from Durant and five from Shamet to push their lead to 93-62. They outscored the Timberwolves 16-0 from the end of the third quarter into the fourth as their lead grew to 42 points at 116-74.
Now, they face the 76ers in a battle for playoff seeding amid uncertainty over whether Durant will play the second game of a back-to-back set or whether Irving or Aldridge will be available.
"I felt good out there," Durant said. "We’ll see how I feel in the morning, and I’ll talk to the coach and the training staff and see where we go from there."