On the Wolves: Canis Hoopus / A Wolf Among Wolves / T'wolves Blog
The Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks look to shrug off opening night losses on Monday when they meet at the Bradley Center for Milwaukee's home opener. All eyes will be on Ricky Rubio, who impressed off the bench in the Wolves' home opening loss to Oklahoma City.
The Rubio effect. Not all losses are created equal, and you only need look at the reaction of the Milwaukee and Minnesota fan bases over the past 24 hours for a clear example why. While Bucks fans were justifiably disappointed/annoyed/emotionally bankrupted by their team's third quarter no-show in Charlotte, Timberwolves fans were largely upbeat following their home-opening loss to Kevin Durant and the title-contending Thunder. Afterall, there's nothing embarrassing about losing to the gang from OKC, especially when Wolves fans were more interested in getting a glimpse of how their long-term future with Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love and Derrick Williams may pan out.
As was the case in the preseason, both Rubio and Williams came off the bench but made quick impacts. True to form, Rubio didn't worry much about scoring himself (6 points on 2/3 shooting) but dished out six dimes without a turnover in 26 minutes, electrifying the expectant Target Center crowd on a number of occasions with his terrific vision and passing instincts (how 'bout them bounce passes?). As the highlights above suggest, everyone becomes a finisher when Rubio is on the court, and you can bet the Wolves will look to push the tempo whenever possible.
Gooden suspended. The NBA announced this afternoon that Drew Gooden would be suspended for tonight's game following his flagrant two foul on Gerald Henderson in the opener. Gooden was Bogut's backup at center last night, so his absence will further stretch the Bucks' depth up front, which was already dealing with the absence of Luc Mbah a Moute (knee tendonitis). We'll update Mbah a Moute's status when we hear more, but Larry Sanders, Jon Leuer, and Jon Brockman will all need to be ready for more minutes up front.
Ersan Ilyasova could start for the second straight game at PF, though Skiles will be hoping to also have Mbah a Moute as an option against his former UCLA teammate Kevin Love. The Bucks will have a tall order preventing Love from getting his customary 20/15: mark him with a bigger player like Bogut and he'll kill you in the pick & pop, while smaller players will have a hard time holding their position against him down low. Bogut will initially be tasked with marking Darko Milicic, but figures to match up with the smaller Love at some point.
Considering the options Skiles has at his disposal, Ilyasova isn't a particularly bad matchup against Love on paper--he's mobile enough to chase Love outside and will battle with him on the boards. But the Bucks would also prefer to get more offensively from Ilyasova, who didn't do anything in Charlotte to counter his rep as an inconsistent, unassertive offensive player. Ersan missed two early jumpers and then essentially vanished for the remainder of the night on the offensive end, his only real contributions coming on the boards.
On the rebound. The Bucks owed their season opening loss in Charlotte in larger part to their second-half struggles on the boards, which is all the more worrying when you're about to host the league's best rebounder. The Bobcats outrebounded the Bucks by a staggering 33-14 margin in the second half, including 12 offensive rebounds. Interestingly it wasn't the Bobs' bigs who did most of the work either. Gerald Henderson grabbed eight of those second half rebounds and Kemba Walker and Corey Maggette both added six, which tells you that the Bucks' perimeter players forgot that they're allowed to box out, too. Love helped Minnesota tally the second-best offensive rebound rate in the league a year ago, so the Bucks will have their hands full preventing Minnesota from gaining second chances.
Porter returns. The Wolves will be without new coach Rick Adelman tonight (attending a funeral), meaning former Bucks coach and Wisconsin native Terry Porter will be handling the head coaching duties.
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