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Lopez leads Nets past Timberwolves 91-83

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Lopez leads Nets past Timberwolves 91-83

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Brook Lopez strengthened his push for a spot on the All-Star team with 22 points on 10-for-16 shooting, helping the Brooklyn Nets hold off the Minnesota Timberwolves 91-83 on Wednesday night.

The Nets improved to 12-2 under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, and they're 9-1 with their preferred starting lineup: Lopez, the NBA's highest-scoring center, Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans. Williams and Johnson scored 18 points apiece, and the Nets never trailed despite some sloppy stretches of play.

C.J. Watson added 14 points for the Nets, who won for the first time in their last nine games at Minnesota. The Wolves have lost seven of their last eight overall.

Andrei Kirilenko had 15 points and Dante Cunningham added 14 for the Wolves, who played without shooting guard Alexey Shved (left ankle) and center Nikola Pekovic (right quadriceps) for the third straight game. That's not to mention the four others out with longer-term injuries, a troubling list led by Kevin Love.

With Ricky Rubio guarding Williams and Luke Ridnour on Johnson, the Nets as they often do had mostly favorable matchups in the backcourt with their pair of perennial All-Stars. But whether it was bad passes that sailed out of bounds, a willingness to settle too often for long jump shots or scrappy defense by the Wolves, the Nets never put the game away. They even took a 66-52 lead shortly after halftime, only to let Ridnour lead the Wolves back within two points again.

Johnson went nearly 24 1/2 minutes without scoring until a flurry late in the third quarter. Watson picked up where Johnson left off, playing a game of ``Around the World'' at J.J. Barea's expense early in the fourth period with nine straight points for the Nets.

The Wolves fell to 3-9 in January, 2-8 since Love re-injured his right hand.

Fresh from an important win over the crosstown rival Knicks that moved them within one game of the Atlantic Division lead, the Nets needed to avoid the natural letdown against a reeling, injury-ravaged opponent. ``You talk about Band-Aids,'' Carlesimo said before the game, sympathizing with the Wolves.

The Nets took a 14-2 lead with a 10-for-15 start from the floor against a team whose defense has faded following a solid start to the season. The Wolves allowed an average of 91.9 points over their first 18 games, but in the 21 games since they've given up more than 100 points per contest.

For all their effort to make this a game, the Wolves were just too short-handed to gain control. Derrick Williams found a lane to the basket off a slick give-and-go with Ridnour late in the first quarter, but he missed his dunk with Lopez in his face. Then, when Rubio stole the ball back, the struggling point guard's behind-the-back pass to Williams was intercepted by Wallace.

Chris Johnson, the lean, athletic center signed on Saturday to an emergency 10-day contract from the D-League, at least provided some energy and flair underneath to help counteract Lopez's usual production on the other end. Chris Johnson played all 12 minutes in the second quarter and had 10 points in that stretch. He's 11 of 14 from the field in three games for the Wolves.

Rubio had more trouble finding a rhythm, a common sight in his comeback from reconstructive surgery on his left knee. He had six assists and three steals but only five points on 2-for-5 shooting and looked upset on the bench near the end of the game.

Rubio's season high is eight points, and he is 0 for 11 from 3-point range. Outside shooting is trouble for the whole team, though. The Wolves were the only NBA team coming into the game with a 3-point percentage worse than 30 percent. They went 3 for 15 on Wednesday.

Notes: Barea said he'll appeal his $5,000 fine for flopping. His second violation of the new rule this season occurred in the Jan. 14 game at Dallas. ... The Nets assigned rookies Tornike Shengelia and Tyshawn Taylor to their D-League affiliate. Carlesimo said they're good enough to be in the NBA now, but there's little opportunity for them to develop on a contending team. ``They need to play more than anything,'' the coach said. ... Carlesimo was asked what the ceiling is for Lopez, who entering the night was the only player in the NBA currently averaging at least 18 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks per game. ``I don't know, and I think that's a good thing,'' Carlesimo said. ... Ridnour has scored in double digits in 10 of his last 11 games. He's the only Wolves player to start every game this season.

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Follow Dave Campbell on Twitter:http://www.twitter.com/DaveCampbellAP

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

You may think this was an ugly four-game road trip for the Caps, but with a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday, Washington managed to earn five out of a possible eight points.

Here is why the Caps beat the Sabres and managed to save the road swing.

A missed high-stick (maybe) from Ovechkin

Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game in the second period as he deflected a high-shot from Christian Djoos down past goalie Chad Johnson. But did the deflection come on a high stick? The play was reviewed and the goal was ultimately upheld. According to the NHL, it was determined that "video review supported the Referee's call on the ice that Alex Ovechkin's stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he tipped the puck into the Buffalo net."

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May broke the play down during the second intermission and made his case for why the NHL actually got the call wrong.

Was that a high stick? I don't know. As compelling an argument as May made, it still looks inconclusive which means the review made the right call. What surprises me is that the referee did not disallow the goal on the initial call.

Whether the review is truly inconclusive or flat out wrong, Washington was fortunate to walk away from this sequence with the goal.

MORE CAPITALS: BIZARRE SEQUENCE LEADS TO CAPS SCORING AND GETTING PENALIZED AT THE SAME TIME

A centimeter of ice

Hockey is a game of inches and it took less than an inch to put Washington up 2-0. When an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot hit off the boards and bounced back to the front of the net, it sparked a scrum next to goalie Chad Johnson. Eventually, John Carlson was able to get a swipe on the puck sending it trickling to the goal line, but Kyle Okposo was there waiting and appeared to kick it out to safety just before it crossed. A review triggered by the Situation Room, however, revealed that the puck had just barely managed to cross the goal line before Okposo got to it.

Here's the view the NHL released after the review:

Philipp Grubauer's third period

After dominating the first 40 minutes of the game and taking a 2-0 lead, Buffalo predictably made a late push in the third period with two goals to pull within one. Washington outshot the Sabres in the first and second periods, but Buffalo reversed that trend in a big way in the third as they outshot the Caps 17-6. Grubauer turned aside 15 of those shots and was impressive after barely being tested in the first two periods.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-SABRE

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3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

Coming off an ugly 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a Buffalo Sabres team missing star Jack Eichel was just what the doctor ordered for the Caps to get back on track. Washington dominated the first two periods and then survived a late surge from Buffalo for the 3-2 win.

After battling to a scoreless first, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson spotted Washington a 2-0 lead in the second. They then held on in the third period as Buffalo began to tilt the ice in their favor, with Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring the empty-netter to put this game out of reach. Evander Kane would pull Buffalo within one, but with only three seconds left it was too little, too late.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin opened up the scoring in the second period as he deflected down an innocent shot from Christian Djoos past Chad Johnson.

Ovechkin also set a physical tone as he battled with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen all game long. After taking a high elbow from Ristolainen early in the game Ovechkin skated up to Ristolainen prior to the faceoff on his next shift and let him know that it was on. 

2. John Carlson: Carlson had a hand in both of Washington's first two goals. He recorded a secondary assist on Ovechkin's goal as he made a blue line pass to Djoos which Djoos fired on net and Ovechkin deflected. Carlson then managed to hit the puck past the goal line in a scrum next to Johnson. It looked initially like Kyle Okposo had managed to kick out the puck just before it crossed, but Carlson was awarded the goal as a review showed the puck had completely crossed the line.

3. Philipp Grubauer: A Sabres team that ranks last in the NHL in scoring and that was also without its leading scorer did not test Grubauer much in the first two periods. Facing a 2-0 deficit, however, Buffalo made a third period push to try to tie the game, but Grubauer was up to the task as he turned aside 15 of the 17 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 32 total saves on the night.