A show of grit from rookie Isaiah Whitehead helped the Nets overcome their point-guard problems Tuesday, and defeat the Timberwolves 119-110 in front of 13,610 at Barclays Center.
Brook Lopez led the Nets (3-4) with 26 points, and Bojan Bogdanovic had the dagger 3-pointer for a 115-110 lead with 37.4 seconds left. But it was Whitehead, starting because of injuries to Jeremy Lin and backup Greivis Vasquez, who left the game early after being hurt, only to come back with his best pro performance. He had six points, seven assists, seven boards and one huge show of toughness.
“It was tough. But I just knew how much my team was down. We had a couple guys injured, so I just tried to come back and continue to play,’’ said Whitehead, a Coney Island native. “It’s just the way I grew up, just being tough, not letting things that you can overcome stop you from playing. It’s just the way I grew up, where I’m from. It’s what we do.”
Whitehead hit the deck and T’wolves forward Gorgui Dieng stepped on his head with 7:42 left in the first quarter. The rookie from Seton Hall eventually staggered off the court and was checked for a concussion.
“I’m not even sure [what happened]. I just know I took a charge, I tried to get up and next thing I know I just saw lights,’’ Whitehead said. “I just didn’t know. It was tough. I got to the bench and Caris [LeVert] said I had a shoe mark on my face, so I figured what happened.”
The Nets turned to Sean Kilpatrick, and then combo guard Randy Foye, who had been out with a hamstring injury, finally made his Nets debut with 3:40 to play in the first. The Nets got out of the opening quarter knotted at 33. Whitehead returned to start the second, running an offense that shot 55.3 percent for the game and put six players in double-figures.
“No question, that’s the toughness we need and the definition of Brooklyn grit,’’ Lopez said. “That’s homegrown, and we need that from every player.”
The Nets led just 66-65 at the break, their hot shooting undone as they were out-rebounded 25-16 in the first half, their guards grabbing just four. But they flipped the script in the second, out-rebounding Minnesota 27-16, led by 15 boards from the backcourt.
It was knotted at 106 with 3:43 left when Rondae Hollis-Jefferson broke the tie with a short bank shot. After Andrew Wiggins (game-high 36 points) missed a pair of free throws, Lopez bulled through three defenders for a layup and four-point lead.
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