The Wolves feasted on a thin Milwaukee club plagued by a talent famine at the Bradley Center. Short on star players, short on scoring options, even short on layups, the Bucks fell short to Minnesota, 90-83.
Al Jefferson (23/10) led Minnesota's charge and Ryan Gomes (22/8) put on a can't-miss show making 3-5 from downtown and all six free throws. The Bucks were never really out of the game, but they also never looked like a winning outfit, playing without its top two players.
Ramon Sessions. Nabbing a start for the first time since November seemed to give Ramon an extra springy step. The starting shooting guard was active offensively (18 points on 12 shots) and active defensively (3 steals), though he may have taken the new role too seriously: only two dimes for the former passer extraordinaire. Nevertheless, he filled Michael's big shoes well.
Charlie Villanueva. Do you recall when CV was on a path to attract some Sixth Man of the Year consideration? That's a fading memory now that Villanueva is not only firmly in the starting lineup, but perhaps the team's chief offensive force. Such is life when the team's top two players are out and RJ remains unable to step into the leading role. Villanueva as a gunning sixth man might give top seeds first round worries; Villanueva as option number one worries me. Of course, this is no fault of Charlie's.
Joe Alexander. Scott Skiles' preferred rookie backup forward tonight, Alexander relished his sixth man role, looking pretty sharp (guiding the fastbreak notwithstanding) scoring eight points and adding four boards in 24 minutes.
- 5. Five represents a handful of the categories won by the Bucks at the bottom of the box score: rebounds (43-42), assists (22-20), steals (10-7), blocks (7-1), and turnovers (14-17). Not overwhelming stuff, but you wouldn't normally expect a loss based on that.
40.0 % Plus, both teams shot an identical 40.0 % from the field, with the Bucks making an extra four out of ten. The Timberwolves made up points in other ways though...
- 7.1 % As if we didn't already realize Milwaukee is now missing its second all-time three-point shooter, the Bucks made it pretty obvious with a 1-14 (.071) effort from outside tonight. Jefferson "led" the way with 0-5 and Tyronn Lue made 1-3 for the only club's only three-point conversion.
- Lottery winners. You got me: Neither team really hit the jackpot, but lottery pick rookie forwards Kevin Love (5th pick) and Joe Alexander (8th) asserted themselves nicely on yet another winter night in Milwaukee. Love finished with 12/7 including 8-8 from the stripe. Alexander went for 8/4 and blocked his rookie opponent. Love's elbow to Charlie Bell's face wasn't in good form, but also not necessarily malicious. On the general subject of Kevin, I'll note he was one of three white American backup power forwards on Minnesota (Cardinal, Madsen). 'Tis unusual.
- Same standing. The Nets pulled off the rare feat of losing to the Thunder to help Milwaukee cling to the final playoff spot. But for some reason the Knicks beat the Rockets, which doesn't help matters. This is going to be a long two and a half months to hold onto a half-game lead.
- Backup. Sessions did just fine stepping in for Redd and stepping up to pace the Bucks with 18 points, delivering a performance which should buy him many more minutes. Not every night however will the Bucks face such a small-ish backcourt like Sebastian and Foye, which, by the way, has a nice ring to it. Sebastian and Foye.
Out-Jefferson'd. In the battle of leading Jeffersons coming into the game, Al outclassed Richard with ease. The Bucks' big offseason acquisition hit for an efficient 22.6 points per game last season, and with Redd and Bogut out, now is prime time to rekindle those scoring spirits. But Richard instead went for 10, while Al netted 23 to lead all scorers. That's more than the overall difference in the game.
Offensive. The Bucks scored 133 points last time I recapped, and that sure feels like a lot more than five days ago now. Milwaukee made a sort-of push in the fourth quarter, but the offense never really came close to clicking tonight. The worst was during a particularly sputtering stretch in the third quarter. Given the circumstances, not entirely surprising, but sore on these eyes nonetheless.
Minutes: Wait a second. I was happy to see Sessions start. But how did Luc Richard Mbah a Moute play only seven more minutes than Redd and Bogut? The Malik minutes, as few as they were, still managed to pain me. And what exactly did Charlie Villanueva have better to do than play in the fourth quarter; I doubt anything more productive than what he could have done on court.