Andre Kirilenko was hurt, Kevin Love was ill, and Ricky Rubio still hasn't played all season. And for one game at least it didn't matter.
Neither the Bucks (36% fg) nor Wolves (39%) could shoot straight, but Minnesota did most things just a little bit better and more consistently on Wednesday night--and in the end that left them a lot better on the scoreboard. Alexey Shved, Luke Ridnour, J.J. Barea, Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic all scored between 14 and 16 points while the Bucks looked offensively hopeless for long stretches, including an 11-0 Minnesota run midway through the fourth quarter that blew open what had been a one-point game. That run came perhaps not coincidentally just after Beno Udrih suffered an ugly ankle sprain that forced him to the locker room in substantial pain, as Shved took over down the stretch with 10 of his 16 points in the decisive period, helping offset the Wolves' struggles scoring inside against Sanders and company in the second half.
Sanders blocked six shots in his first 10 minutes and needed a late scoring binge to reach double figures in points, but there was little else to feel too excited about for Milwaukee. John Henson was solid early on and finished with a healthy 10/7 line, but foul trouble limited him in the second half. Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis each scored 18 points but needed a combined 41 shots to do it, while Mike Dunleavy and Tobias Harris combined to make just 3/18 shots on the evening. Oh, and Ersan Ilyasova? Two days after complaining about his lack of minutes against the Knicks, Ilyasova didn't play a single minute on Friday.
You could see the loss coming when Minnesota surged to a 10 point lead at the half, closing the second quarter with a 12-4 run punctuated by Barea's awkward buzzer-beating three. All in all pretty reminiscent of Wednesday's loss against the Knicks--the Bucks started off respectably but struggled defensively for much of the half, eventually letting the lead swell to double-digits in the final minutes of the second quarter. Henson started energetically with three tip-ins in the first five minutes, but Minnesota's small guard lineup of Luke Ridnour and Barea caused the Bucks plenty of problems in P&R and Pekovic was a load in the paint with 12 points in the first quarter.
The loss drops the Bucks to 7-7 heading into an important clash Saturday night at home against the Celtics. A loss would see the Bucks fall under .500 for the first time this season, but there is at least some good news to report: Boston will be without Rajon Rondo following the NBA's decision to suspend the Celtics' star two games following an altercation with the Nets' Kris Humphries earlier this week.
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