MINNEAPOLIS — Kurt Rambis has been preaching defense to his young Minnesota Timberwolves for two years, for the most part to no avail.
Maybe he should reserve a courtside seat for Kim Kardashian every night.
Kevin Love had 23 points and 10 rebounds and the Timberwolves played the kind of defense that has been an afterthought in these parts in a 103-88 victory over the New Jersey Nets on Saturday night.
Darko Milicic scored 16 points on 8-for-9 shooting and the porous Wolves, who allow more points than any team in the NBA, held the Nets to nine points in the third quarter to win for the third time in four games.
"That's how we've got to play," Milicic said. "The first half we didn't show up. Thirty-three points for two quarters, that's great defense."
Sasha Vujacic tied a career high with 22 points for the Nets, who have lost five in a row. Former University of Minnesota star Kris Humphries added 12 points and 14 rebounds, but managed just two points and four rebounds in the second half as the Nets fell apart.
"It hurts. People at home, don't think that we sit there and we lose, and it's on to the next one, maybe we'll get the next one," Humphries said. "We're putting in time, all the players are watching film and trying to correct things and really working hard at it. We're staying after it. That's really all I can say."
The teams have combined for 50 losses and 18 victories this season, which is fewer than 12 teams have on their own, and it showed. The Nets and Wolves turned the ball over 38 times, and the game was a mishmash of poor decisions, sloppy ball handling and fouling.
About the only thing good the Nets had going for them on Saturday night was Kardashian, the bombshell who came to town to watch boyfriend Humphries play in his home state.
The former Golden Gopher got off to a fast start with 10 points and 10 rebounds in the first half, thoroughly outplaying Love, the NBA's leading rebounder.
Maybe Kardashian was making the young pups on the Timberwolves a little nervous as well. They turned the ball over 11 times in the first half, leading to 14 New Jersey points.
Coach Avery Johnson had his guards crashing the boards and converging on Love, surrounding him to make it more difficult for him to gain position as the ball caromed off the rim. The Nets outrebounded Minnesota 20-16 and shot 53.5 percent in the first half en route to a 55-54 lead.
Rambis had a few choice words for his team at halftime.
"If I had $100 for every four-letter word he said, I'd be a rich man," Love said.
But the sultry brunette was not at her seat at the start of the second half, and the Wolves ripped off a 14-0 run to take control.
The Nets missed their first seven shots and committed seven turnovers in the period. By the time Kardashian returned, Wes Johnson's two free throws made it 72-57. So she was a plus-one for the game while the Nets were a minus-15.
New Jersey was just 4 for 17 in the quarter, and the nine points allowed were a season low for the Timberwolves, who have been one of the worst defensive teams in the league.
"Boy, we had a terrible third quarter," Johnson said. "We started off the quarter not focused on defense, and then our offense went in the tubes. We just didn't move the ball. We turned it over, which put a lot of pressure on our defense. So we weren't very good."
The Nets shot 33 percent in the second half and Martell Webster scored 10 points and hit two big 3s in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
Devin Harris had 16 points and eight assists for the Nets, but made just 3 of 13 shots in a lifeless effort. Brook Lopez added just six points and four rebounds.
"I'll take most of the blame," Harris said. "We came out very lethargic offensively. You know that goes on the point guard's shoulders, and I'll take responsibility."
NOTES: Timberwolves PG Jonny Flynn missed the game because of a sprained right ankle. He's expected to practice Sunday and play Monday. ... The Nets played without F Troy Murphy (illness) and PG Jordan Farmar (knee). ... The Timberwolves won for the first time this season when Milicic scores more than 14 in a game. ... The Nets missed 11 of 28 free throws.
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