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Timberwolves forward Dante Cunningham defended Brooklyn’s Joe Johnson during the second half of the Wolves’ comeback victory in New York.

Frank Franklin II, Associated Press

WOLVES 107, BROOKLYN 96

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Stunner in Brooklyn: Wolves rally from 22 down to win

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA
  • Star Tribune
  • November 6, 2012 - 8:38 AM

NEW YORK - The Timberwolves made their first visit to Brooklyn and the $1 billion Barclays Center an unforgettable one Monday night with an improbable 107-96 comeback victory over the suddenly trendy, and trending, Nets.

Rick Adelman predicted his team would respond after Sunday's 19-point loss at Toronto, but nobody on his side envisioned a recovery from a 22-point, third-quarter deficit, the fourth-largest comeback in franchise history.

"We just looked like one great team," starting center Nikola Pekovic said afterward, "what we're going to be."

Trailing a Nets team that seemingly could do no wrong 71-49 early in the third quarter, the Wolves outscored Brooklyn 58-25 the rest of the way on a night when J.J. Barea returned to the lineup after Sunday's hard knock on the head and backcourt mate Alexey Shved came of age in his third career NBA game.

Adelman improvised by using a small lineup featuring almost exclusively reserves and rode them to the end Monday. He blended Shved's playmaking, Dante Cunningham's rebounding, Chase Budinger's shooting and Barea's effervescence to Pekovic's physical presence and hustle for a wild ride down that stretch that included a deciding 15-2 flourish.

The Nets shot better from three-point distance -- 61 percent to 59 -- than they did from two-point range in a first half when max-contract guys Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez all operated at will.

And then ... ?

"I don't know what happened, but maybe they just started missing their shots," Shved said. "Before that, they make everything. After that, they miss."

The Nets scored 62 points by halftime but just 10 in a fourth quarter, when the Wolves outscored them by 22 points.

"The game was easy for them," Adelman said about the Nets' first half. "I told them we had to start making it tougher on them, cut into it and see what we are."

You could attribute that dramatic turnabout to a smaller lineup that effectively defended a Brooklyn pick-and-roll that ran unchecked in the first half.

You could attribute it to just the right mix of speed and moxie that kept Wolves starters Andrei Kirilenko, Brandon Roy, Derrick Williams and Luke Ridnour on the bench down the stretch, even though Kirilenko again was efficient with 16 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, four blocks and a steal.

Or maybe you can just attribute everything to Shved's freshly shorn hair, an anti-Samson of sorts. He lost the mop and that headband with a Monday morning cut that teammates playfully credited with turning him into a crunch-time difference maker.

"I've been waiting for this a long time," said Kirilenko, his CSKA Moscow and Russian national teammate. "I know I have long hair, but his hair was killing me."

Budinger and Shved started the Wolves off on their finishing flourish with back-to-back threes. They provided the fire for Cunningham's six-point, seven-rebound fourth quarter and inspired big-man Pekovic to run the court like a guard for a fast-break layup from Barea that gave the Wolves only their second lead of the night with 4 minutes, 39 seconds left.

Shved played the entire fourth quarter, made two threes, scored 10 points and had two rebounds and two assists in that time. He put his team up for good at 98-96 with 2:35 to go, the start of the Wolves' game-closing 11-0 run.

"I know he can play like that," Kirilenko said. "I've seen him play for the Russian team. I'm not surprised he can make those shots in the crunch moment. He has those nerves to take that shot in the crunch moment when everybody is a little shaky. He did a great job."

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