MINNEAPOLIS -- The New Jersey Nets certainly didn't look like a team fighting for its playoff life.
Facing one of the worst teams in the league that was missing its two best players, the Nets started flat on offense and appeared wholly uninterested on the defensive side of the ball in a loss that may have sunk them into too big a hole.
Playing more aggressively than he has in months, Mike Miller had 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists to help the Minnesota Timberwolves snap a seven-game losing streak with a 108-99 victory over the fading Nets on Sunday.
"It's just unacceptable," said Nets guard Vince Carter, whose 36 points and eight rebounds weren't enough to offset New Jersey's general malaise. "We feel like we're very capable of being in the playoffs and this was an opportunity to jump start us into accomplishing that and, you know, we took a step back."
Devin Harris had 19 points and five assists in his second game back from a shoulder injury for the Nets, who have lost four in a row. They fell to 11th in the Eastern Conference, 5 1/2 games behind Detroit and Chicago for the eighth and final playoff spot with just nine games to play.
Carter's three-point play off a dunk cut Minnesota's lead to 101-94 with just over a minute to play, but it was too late. The Nets allowed the worst shooting team in the league to shoot 51 percent from the field and 10-for-20 from 3-point range.
"It's just very, very disappointing, obviously knowing what's at stake, that we couldn't put forth a better defensive effort than what we did," coach Lawrence Frank said.
The Timberwolves have been without leading scorer and rebounder Al Jefferson since he went down with a knee injury just before the All-Star break. Randy Foye emerged as the de facto leader, but he was out on Sunday with a hip injury that has nagged him for more than a month.
So Miller, who has been almost stubborn in his refusal to shoot the ball in his first season in Minnesota, essentially had no choice but to put it up. He scored nine points on 3-for-4 shooting in the first quarter to set an aggressive tone, and kept shooting all game.
His reverse layup at the start of the fourth quarter gave him 13 attempts for the first time since Dec. 1 at Charlotte. He finished 8-for-14 from the field, giving him his most shot attempts since he shot 17 times Nov. 28 at Oklahoma City.
"That's definitely what we need," coach Kevin McHale said. "When Mike does that, it just opens up things for everybody else."
Miller was unavailable for comment after the game.
The Timberwolves entered the game shooting a league-worst 44 percent from the field. But they put together one of their most impressive halves of offensive basketball in recent memory to jump out to an 18-point lead.
The Timberwolves shot 67 percent in the first 18 minutes and had 14 assists on their first 16 baskets. Minnesota hit six of its first seven 3-pointers, and Gomes made the eighth shot from long distance of the half to give the Wolves a 54-36 lead with 3:25 to play in the half.
After attempting only four shots in the first half, Carter came out firing in the third quarter, scoring New Jersey's first nine points. Harris added a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 65-60, but the Nets never got closer than that the rest of the way.
"This is one of those things Kevin has been talking about -- moving the ball, moving the ball, moving the ball," Wolves point guard Sebastian Telfair said. "Today we came out and made plays for each other and guys knocked shots down."
The Nets were without F Bobby Simmons (back) and F Jarvis Hayes, who flew to Atlanta where his wife gave birth to a baby boy on Sunday morning. ... Timberwolves F Craig Smith missed the game with a calf injury. ... Wolves F Mark Madsen got some rare early action in the first period, but picked up three fouls in less than 2 minutes and quickly returned to the bench. ... Wolves F Rodney Carney score 19 points.
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