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Timberwolves 114, Bucks 109: Bogut returns

Box Score

Welcome back, Andrew.

As expected, Andrew Bogut's long-awaited return to competitive basketball was rather brief, totaling just under 15 minutes. But the Bucks' MVP made it through his first test unscathed and acquitted himself rather well in the box score, posting a more-than-respectable 11 points (3/3 fg, 5/6 ft) and five rebounds. So much for the protective padding on his right hand and elbow throwing off his shot, eh? Though given Bogut's record of poor shooting, a tender elbow and hand probably can't do that much harm. On the downside, Bogut also picked up four fouls and didn't block a shot, but listening on the radio it's hard to draw any real conclusions about how he may have been limited (or not limited) by his right arm. He played, he didn't get hurt, and we all live to fight another day. Can't ask for much more than that at this point.

As for the end result, that could have been better, but the usual preseason caveats apply. Neither team was able to get much separation from the other through three quarters, and I wouldn't lose too much sleep over the Milwaukee second unit's inability to put away a Minnesota lineup featuring four starters down the stretch in the fourth. So it goes. The beastly Kevin Love scored 14 of his 32 in the fourth quarter (12/17 fg) and Wayne Ellington took advantage of a rare start to drop 22 on just 11 shots, as both teams struggled to get stops. More thoughts after the jump.

Is that a starting lineup I see? The big Aussie started the first and third quarters next to Drew Gooden, as Scott Skiles fielded 80% of his probable starting lineup for the first time this preseason.  Alas, Chris Douglas-Roberts continues to deputize at shooting guard for John Salmons, who hasn't even returned to practice yet. But the return of Bogut and another good night from Carlos Delfino (6/10 fg, 19 pts in 21 minutes) has the Bucks getting close to the lineup we're likely to see starting in New Orleans on October 27. Now let's stay healthy from here on out, please. 

Big man rotation. Gooden played just 10 minutes, scoring eight points on 3/4 shooting, as Skiles made good on his suggestion yesterday that he'd limit his new big man's minutes on the second night of the back-to-back. That meant plenty of minutes for Ersan Ilyasova, who continues to score from the stripe (10/12 ft tonight, 30/32 in preseason) despite laying bricks from the field at an alarming rate (5/17 fg tonight, 32.3% shooting overall). So Ersan's team-high 22 points were a mixed bag, especially when you consider he was also the guy supposedly defending Love in the fourth quarter.

Interestingly, Ersan only attempted 158 free throws in 81 games last year, yet he's managed more than 20% of that figure in just six preseason games.  I'm not sure how much to read into either number, but the optimist in me will hope that Ersan manages to stay aggressive and drawing fouls while regaining his touch from outside (or at least improving on his annoying tendency for taking contested jumpers).

Meanwhile, Larry Sanders made another jump shot (1/3 fg, two points) but barely avoided fouling out for the second time in 48 hours, racking up five fouls in just under 20 minutes. In contrast, Brian Skinner didn't take a shot in 19 minutes (fine by me) and pulled down a more-than-respectable eight boards. If Skinner does manage to steal the last roster spot, Sanders' unimpressive preseason may have a lot to do with it. 

Young Buck. Jennings' raw numbers haven't been anything to write home about thus far, but it's probably not worth reading too much into that given who he's been playing with for most of the preseason. At least that's what I'm trying to tell myself. After his 3/7 night in South Dakota, Jennings is now shooting 20/57 (35.1%) from the field including 8/23 (34.8%) from deep, so in that sense not much has changed.

But like Ilyasova, Jennings is making up for his poor shooting with more frequent visits to the foul line. After his 6/7 night against Minnesota, Jennings is now 27/31 in six games and has more free throws than field goals. That's in stark contrast to a year ago, when he made more than twice as many baskets as free throws. Granted, some of that is due to the fact that he's missing so many shots from the field, but all told his preseason TS% is a not-terrible 53.0%, well above the undeniably bad 47.5% he posted as a rookie. 

Battle of the Line.  The Bucks' massive free throw disparity last year has been well-documented, so it's encouraging to note that they've turned it around completely through six (admittedly meaningless) preseason games. After finishing 38/45 from the stripe against Minnesota (which was 23/28), Milwaukee is now +40 in attempts and +55 in free throws made through six games. And all that has come without Corey Maggette, the one guy on the roster who's actually good at drawing fouls. Gotta start somewhere, right?