Minnesota Timberwolves 95 – Milwaukee Bucks 85

Jim Mone – Associated Press

Tonight’s game from the Target Center featured two of the colder teams in the league.  I don’t mean the weather in their hometowns, but how they were playing coming into the game.  Both teams have been struggling to win games more recently and both teams have been woeful in their respective three point shooting – percentage wise, the worst two teams in the league.

Earlier in the day the Wolves announced that Andrei Kirilenko was going to miss another game due to his back spasms.  As if that weren’t enough, the team also announced that Kevin Love would be a game time decision due to food poisoning.  Love decided to give it a go and the Pups opened up the game with Ridnour, Barea, Howard, Love, and Pekovic.  Barea got the nod tonight over Malcolm Lee in an effort to better match up with the Bucks’ backcourt of Jennings and Ellis.  After ruining 40% of the following sentence, Milwaukee opened up with Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, Tobias Harris, John Henson, and Samuel Dalembert.

Early on, both teams looked good on the offensive end of the floor and/or woeful on the defensive side.  John Henson had three offensive rebounds and tip-ins in the first three minutes of the game, largely out-jumping Love on the board.  However, Love had his jumper going, hitting his first two shots, including one from beyond the arc.

A very entertaining 1st quarter ended with the Bucks leading 30-29.  Pekovic had a monster quarter for the Wolves with 12 & 8 playing the entire twelve minutes.  Had I written a summary after the first six minutes, I would have said JJ Barea had a nice quarter, as he had 4 quick assists earlier in the quarter.  However, as soon as Ridnour went to the bench and Barea moved over to PG, he morphed into “pound the ball on the floor and then do something annoying” JJ Barea.  Probably not to anyone’s surprise, the Bucks backcourt combined for 14 points in the quarter.  Also worth noting, Larry Sanders finished the quarter with 6 blocks.  Six!  Granted, there was a flurry of activity that led to a few of these, but that is still impressive.

Both teams took a significant step backwards in the first six minutes of the 2nd quarter.  Going into the first timeout of the quarter, the Wolves had retaken the lead 41-38 and it felt like no one had done much of anything positive in twenty minutes (real time).  Minnesota was able to turn it around in the final minutes of the quarter while also holding Milwaukee to 17 points for the quarter.  At the half, the Pups held a 57-47 lead, which included an off balance three at the buzzer by Barea.

Here are a few halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:

  • After poking fun at John Henson in the game preview, it should have been assumed that he would have a nice half (10 & 7, largely from the 1st quarter though)
  • Derrick Williams had a nice half as well, with 4 points and 5 rebounds
  • The Twolves continue to miss too many FT’s, hitting 11 of 16 in the half
  • Love had a nice half but only played 15 minutes – the food poisoning limiting his time on the court

The Wolves opened up the 3rd quarter with the same starting five that began the game and had two bad offensive sets.  On the first, the ball was swung around and Love missed a three pointer.  On the second, Love threw the ball away.  In fact, Love had a really bad quarter which led to the following perspective:

You may never see that again.  In fact, let’s hope we never see that again.

If the 2nd quarter was slow, the 3rd quarter could be defined as sluggish.  With less than three minutes to go in the quarter, the teams combined for 15 points.  The Wolves went over six minutes without scoring a basket in the quarter.  Thankfully, the Bucks weren’t much better.  At the end of the quarter, the Wolves held a 68-63 lead despite scoring 11 points in the quarter.

The 4th quarter came to a halt when Beno Udrih drove to the lane and fell into the baseline cameras.  Udrih rolled his ankle and to be honest, I gagged a little when the Bucks broadcast put the replay in slow motion.  Hope that isn’t too serious for Beno but it wasn’t pretty.

Alexey Shved played quality minutes in the early stages of the 4th quarter, with good team defense and making a few baskets to help maintain the lead.  The sequence of the game came from JJ Barea with just over three minutes to go.  Love, who had another terrible shooting night, missed a jumper but JJ grabbed the offensive rebound and kicked the ball out.  Seconds later, Barea got the ball back and drove to the basked, hitting a runner in the paint to increase the Wolves lead to 11 points.

The Bucks made a small run with a few minutes left to go in the game to cut the lead to 8 points, but Shved answered the Bucks call again with a 27(-ish) foot dagger with the shot clock running down.  From that point, it was just a matter of semantics.  However, kudos must be given to the Bucks’ Larry Sanders, who scored a garbage bucket with seconds remaining to give himself a triple double, with 10 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 blocks.  Wow!

The final score of the game was 95-85, as the Pups did enough to win in the 2nd half with a few key plays and never giving the Bucks too much momentum or confidence to push themselves over the hump.

Three Stars of the Game:

  1. Nikola Pekovic
  2. Alexey Shved
  3. Larry Sanders

The Twolves are off for the next few days and swing over to the East coast (bias!) for games on Tuesday in Philadelphia and Wednesday in Boston.