Improving Nets battle hobbled Timberwolves

The Brooklyn Nets are 9-1 in the month of January and hope to keep the strong play going on Wednesday night when they begin a road trip in Minnesota against the Timberwolves.

The Nets are 11-2 under interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo and although technically the road trip began on Monday, they just needed to take the subway to Madison Square Garden to face the New York Knicks.

The Nets earned a series split with their neighbors thanks to an 88-85 victory over the Knicks. Joe Johnson scored 10 of his team-high 25 points in the fourth quarter, including the go-ahead jumper with 22.3 seconds left.

"That's Joe Johnson," Carlesimo said. "He's a money player. He's been a money player his whole career."

Suddenly, the Nets are a money team. They only trail the Knicks by a single game in the Atlantic Division and could get some happy phone calls Thursday when the All-Star reserves are announced. Johnson, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez are all serious contenders for All-Star berths.

The Nets will also visit the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets during this sojourn.

The Timberwolves are struggling and the injuries have mounted. All-NBA forward Kevin Love, Brandon Roy, Malcolm Lee, Chase Budinger, Nikola Pekovic and Alexey Shved are all expected to miss the Nets game.

Minnesota has lost six of its last seven, including a Monday afternoon setback in Atlanta. The Timberwolves squandered a second-half lead en route to a 104-96 loss to the Hawks.

Derrick Williams led the way for the Wolves with 17 points, followed by 14 off the bench from J.J. Barea and 13 apiece from Dante Cunningham and Andrei Kirilenko.

"I thought we came out with good energy, good activity in the first half," Wolves interim head coach Terry Porter said. "In the second half, the two key areas for us was turnovers and transition defense."

The Nets will have some revenge on their minds. They blew a 22-point, third- quarter lead against the Timberwolves on Nov. 5 in a home loss to the T' Wolves, 107-96.

Pekovic paced the Wolves on that November night. It was the fourth-biggest comeback in Timberwolves history, but this is a different Nets team with their stars playing well.

"(Williams is) one of the best guards in the league, so he's always hard to guard," Luke Ridnour said after Tuesday's practice. "(Brook) Lopez is playing well, Joe Johnson can really score, they're all playing a little more free and making things happen."

The Nets have lost eight in a row and 10 of 11 at the Target Center with their last road victory in this series coming on Nov. 23, 2002.