Nets, Wolves Separated By One Shot
The difference between the Nets and the Timberwolves is that Damien Wilkins bank shot.
The Nets visited Minneapolis on opening night. The game ended with Wilkins' circus putback, a final stitch in a fourth quarter comeback that ultimately pushed New Jersey into a sea of embarrassment. You see, since that game, neither the Nets or the Wolves have won a game. But it's not Minnesota testing historic blight -- it's New Jersey.
If Wilkins hadn't hit that, and the Nets would have pulled out the game in overtime, it might very well be the 0-14 Timberwolves we'd be following with sadistically bated breath. But it did fall, as these prayers infrequently do, and so the Nets chase undesirable history on the Pacific Coast, while Minnesota sits pretty (relatively speaking) at 1-13.
If you look past the record -- if you look past Wilkins bank shot -- the Wolves may actually be worse than the Nets. Minnesota's average points margin (points scored minus points allowed) is -14. New Jersey's sits at -10. Basketball-Reference.com's Simple Rating System, which adjusts points margin for strength of schedule, rates New Jersey at -11.6 ... ahead of only Minnesota, at -12.7. Further, while Minnesota really does little good, the Nets actually boast the league's No. 9 defense. A lot of good it's done, sure, but that's a building block. That's something.
It doesn't to the world at large, because that Damien Wilkins bank shot did go in, and them's the breaks. If the Nets go 0-18, there will be no asterisk denoting that there was actually a worse team out there, and that we'd all be chasing them around if not for Damien Wilkins. Heck, the 0-17 1998-99 Clippers had two overtime losses, including a double-overtime thriller (!) against the Vancouver Grizzlies, a double-overtime game (I remind you) which ended with a score of ... 93-89. (Shareef Abdur-Rahim shot 7-26. Lamond Murray shot 5-23. Fun times in L.A.)
Tough luck, New Jersey. If it's any consolation, Minnesota is only 11 losses away for the NBA's longest losing streak in history. Of course, you're only 10 losses away, but never mind that.