Unlucky 13 as Wolves Drop 14th in a Row to Bucks, 98-84

Look who isn't attacking the ball on the defensive end Friday night.   (Photo credit: 2015 NBAE - Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

Look who isn’t attacking the ball on the defensive end Friday night.
(Photo credit: 2015 NBAE – Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

A thirteen game losing streak was on the line as the 5-29 Minnesota Timberwolves took the short road trip to Milwaukee to take on the 19-18 Bucks Friday night.  What was originally scheduled to showcase the two top rookies in the NBA, Friday’s game fell a little flat on high expectations given the season ending injury that Jabari Parker suffered earlier in the season.  However, Andrew Wiggins has been nothing but impressive of late, averaging about 40 minutes of action a night and putting in 22.6ppg over the past five games.

The Pups opened up with Zach LaVine, Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad, Thad Young, and Gorgui Dieng.  Milwaukee opened up with with Brandon Knight, Giannis Antetokoounmpo, Khris Middleton, Johnny O’Bryant, and Zaza Pachulia.

Zach LaVine got off to a nice start for the Wolves, filling up the stat sheet with rebounds, assists, and a steal in the early minutes.  It could have been even better if the Wolves hit a jump shot or two off of a LaVine pass.  The game had a slow feel to it as the Milwaukee crowd was pretty quiet in the early going.  The first timeout of the game wasn’t taken until 5:13 remained in the opening quarter, with the Timberwolves holding a 13-10 advantage.

At the end of the first quarter the Wolves held a 22-19 lead.  Two major takeaways that need to be discussed – 1. What does Flip Saunders believe he has in Thad Young? and 2. Will the real Chase Budinger please stand up?  Young is an incredibly frustrating player to watch.  The lack in consistency is probably the most pertinent issue.  As for Budinger, he entered the game in the first quarter and responded with 5 points on 2-2 shooting in three minutes.

OJ Mayo answered the call in the second quarter, opening up with two quick three pointers to give the Bucks a 27-24 lead and forcing a Timberwolves timeout.  It didn’t stop there for Milwaukee as they went on a 22-8 run to start the second quarter and opened up a ten point advantage, 41-31.  Unfortunately, the Wolves looked lost throughout the second quarter.  It seems like this has happened every night and the Wolves shoot themselves in the foot at some point each and every time.  The Bucks built a 15 point advantage heading into the locker room, 53-38.  Here’s how bad the second quarter looked:

The defensive effort and intensity was missing to start the third quarter and Flip wound up burning a quick timeout to presumably try to light a fire under the Wolves’ collective asses.  The strategy worked for a few minutes as the Wolves cut the Bucks’ lead to single digits.  However, the Bucks fought back and rebuilt the double digit lead with a few minutes left in  the quarter.  Jerryd Bayless hit a jumper to close out the quarter as the Bucks reclaimed a 14 point advantage heading into the final 12 minutes, 72-58.

The Bucks signed Kenyon Martin to a 10 day contract and he made his first appearance as the 4th quarter got started.  Martin and Bucks Head Coach Jason Kidd were of course teammates when the New Jersey Nets went to back-to-back NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003.

The familiar story of the losing streak continued Friday night.  Too many turnovers, porous defense, and poor shooting percentages were all on display for the Pups.

The final score: Milwaukee 98, Minnesota 84.

Game Notes:

  • Every Bucks player that got on the court scored at least four points in tonight’s game
  • Thad Young had a season high 5 steals
  • Glenn Robinson III entered late in the 4th quarter and added a bit of nostalgia, as his dad was the #1 pick for the Bucks back in 1994

Is J.J. Barea the X-Factor for the Timberwolves?

Photo Credit: Tyler Parker

Photo Credit: Tyler Parker

Timberwolves head coach Rick Adelman demands his Pups to run the Princeton Offense like a high-powered engine. Head mechanic Flip Saunders has made quick work installing a Kevin Martin turbo, patching the transmission with Corey Brewer while changing the oil with Chase Budinger’s new contract. Ricky Rubio sits behind the wheel and Kevin Love rides shotgun as the rest of the Wolves-Wagon idols patiently waited for Nikola Pekovic to climb aboard. The grueling NBA highway is conquered by a steady, and more importantly, healthy, pace. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. With no more Luke Ridnour or Malcolm Lee, who keeps between the lanes when Rubio needs rest? Alexey Shved is still adjusting to driving in the right-lane, leaving J.J. Barea responsible for keeping alignment steady to help drive the Wolves to the desired destination: the postseason.

Barea was a few nonsensical shots away from acquiring the label of a ‘chucker’ last season. He struggled to play within Adelman’s system, taking below average looks at inopportune moments, either in critical possessions or too early in the shot clock. Playing an expanded role on a roster ravaged by injuries, Barea tallied career highs in minutes, FG and 3PT attempts, turnovers and points last season. These numbers, to me, show he left it all out on the floor. He didn’t quit. It’s easy to look for scapegoats, but Barea shouldn’t be knocked for trying to do everything he could to try and help win games.

With the team’s newly acquired depth, Barea returns to a role we are comfortable seeing him in. He’s a phenomenal sixth man, a pure scorer and relentless worker on both ends of the floor. Where Barea lacks in size, he makes up for in heart and hustle.

In his final season playing for the Dallas Mavericks, Barea was everything that Mavs fans hoped he would be as an instant offensive boost from the bench. He even recorded his career high in assists en route to the Mavericks eventual claiming of a World Championship. Barea hasn’t had a chance to be the player he was in Dallas so far playing for the Wolves, but he will get the chance, at least early on, this season.

During the offseason, rumors surfaced that Barea could potentially be traded. Speculation landed him in either Dallas or Brooklyn, where he would reunite with former teammate, and now Nets head coach, Jason Kidd. JJ is owed $9,206,500 over the next two seasons and it’s almost certain, in my opinion, his name will swirl in discussions as the trade deadline approaches. Barea is set to become an unrestricted free-agent prior to the 2015 season.

I am concerned that the Wolves are not deep enough at point guard to make Barea expendable. Barea is currently second on the depth chart behind Rubio and in front of rookie Lorenzo Brown (who is not guaranteed to make the final roster). I’m not going to ignore the idea that Rubio could get hurt at some point during this season, it has happened before. In many ways our tiny point guard’s skill set is that of a shooting guard, although his stature demands that he play as a point guard. Meanwhile, Brown has no NBA experience other than Summer League in Vegas last month.  Shved is also not a natural point guard but can handle the ball respectably when asked to do so. Barea’s role significantly changes if Rubio becomes unavailable for periods of time this season, this much is certain.

It’s impossible to ignore trade rumors and one should never expect a roster to stay 100% healthy for a complete season, but until either become an obstacle I’ve defined Barea’s role to this team as such: He needs to provide between 15-23 quality minutes off the bench, playing with, but not limited to a scorer’s mentality that will put himself and his teammates in positions to score points. He’s a smart, hardworking and dedicated player who will do whatever is asked of him to win. When Rubio steps out and Barea is given the keys to the offense, sure, he may drive recklessly and aggressively at times, but he would never steer Adelman’s vehicle off-course or run it into the ground. He’s a T-Pup, and I’m glad to have him aboard.