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Timberwolves vs. Bucks: Opportunity keeps knocking in Milwaukee

After a much-needed blowout of the Bobcats on Monday, the Bucks finish their homestand hoping to take advantage of a Wolves club still making due without star Kevin Love.

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2012/2013 NBA Season
(36-37-6, 20-18 home)
(17-56, 9-27 road)
April 3, 2013
BMO Harris Bradley Center | Milwaukee, WI
7:00 CT
FS Wisconsin (Alternate) | 1250 WSSP
Probable Starters
Brandon Jennings PG Ricky Rubio
Monta Ellis SG Luke Ridnour
Marquis Daniels SF Andrei Kirilenko
Ersan Ilyasova PF Derrick Willaims
Larry Sanders C Nikola Pekovic
2012/13 Advanced Stats
94.6 (4th) Pace 92.6 (11th)
104.2 (21st) ORtg 102.8 (24th)
105.3 (12th) DRtg 105.4 (13th)

On the Wolves: Canis Hoopus | Timber Pups | A Wolf Among Wolves

Wolves update. After an encouraging 11/12 season that saw Ricky Rubio debut and Kevin Love reach (more or less) superstar status, the 12/13 iteration of the Minnesota Timberwolves have seemingly been doomed from the start. Rubio's ACL tear last spring cost him the first two months of the season while Love has played just 18 games due to a pair of hand injuries, the latest of which figures to keep him out at least another week.

Rubio's numbers are modestly up from last season, which considering the circumstances is saying something. He's still one of the league's most ineffective scorers (36% overall and 23% from deep), but his dynamic passing (9.9 assists/40) is a sight to behold. Still, the Wolves have been better on both ends with Rubio on the bench, which says as much about Rubio's recovery as it does the relative quality of his backups (Luke Ridnour, J.J. Barea). Not that either of them have been fantastic--Ridnour is hitting just 31% from deep and Barea is at his usual well-below-average scoring efficiency as well (50.5% true shooting)--while Russian import Alexey Shved has put up Rubio-esque shooting numbers as well (37.2 from the field, 29.5% from deep). Shved killed the Bucks with his shooting back when these teams met on November 28 in Minneapolis, but those kind of nights have been few and far between for the 24-year-old combo guard.

On the plus side, Andrei Kirilenko has played well since returning from Russia and Nikola Pekovic has blossomed into one of the league's best (and most meme-worthy) post scorers. Kirilenko still can't shoot, but it hasn't prevented him from scoring efficiently (59% true shooting), while Pekovic is putting up the kind of numbers (16.1 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 56.9% TS, 20.10 PER) that should earn him a big raise as a free agent this summer. He returned from an ankle injury to lead the Wolves with 29 points in a 110-100 win over the depleted Celtics on Monday, which narrowed the seventh seeded Celtics' lead over the Bucks to 1.5 games.

Code Redick. Tobias Harris' emergence in Orlando may forever overshadow J.J. Redick's career in Milwaukee, but Redick at least showed signs of breaking out of his recent shooting slump with a 20 points-on-12-shots effort against the Bobcats on Monday. Redick is still shooting just 32.3% from deep and 42% overall, but you would expect those numbers to improve over a larger sample size. Andrew Gruman has a very interesting piece on Redick's adaptation to life in Milwaukee, including his praise for Monta Ellis and the, um, uniqueness of the Bucks' locker room.

"This locker room is unlike any locker room I've ever been a part of," Redick said. "I mean that in the most endearing way possible. It's an interesting group of characters. There's no comparison, whatsoever.

"It's a group of characters. It's been good at times when we've really locked in and focused. It seems like against some of the better teams we have a better focus. That's just human nature. If you want to be a great team you are good every night. You get up to play everybody. If there's one thing that I've kind of taken away from my 4 or 5 weeks here, it's continuing to work toward consistency. That should be where our focus is the next few weeks."

Brandon. Speaking of chemistry, Brandon Jennings seems just thrilled with his recent drop in minutes, even when it comes in a blowout. Following the Bucks' 29-point win over the Bobs, he lobbed some more passive aggressive commentary at his head coach.

"From where I was looking at, it looked like it was fun," Jennings said after the game. "Monta (Ellis) was out there getting guys involved and we were able to knock down shots.

"It was a fast-paced game. We had 100 points at the end of the third. Everybody was getting easy buckets but we found a way to push through it."

Asked if this is the way the Bucks want to play, at such an up-tempo pace, Jennings said: "You would have to ask (coach) Jim Boylan."

And asked if he was upset about playing time, Jennings responded: "As long as we win, that's all that matters. As long as we win. He (Boylan) makes all the decisions."

Jennings has a point in that Ellis and a number of the Bucks' other starters played deep into the fourth quarter even with the game seemingly out of reach, but then again most of those other guys have outplayed him of late. And all of the Bucks' best lineups feature guys other than Jennings.

Blowout. The Bucks' win on Monday was their first first by greater than 10 points in 30 games, which speaks volumes about their maddening ability to make every game, uh, interesting. Though they beat the Warriors and Lakers by an even 10 points in that span, they hadn't exceeded that margin since blowout out the Pistons in Detroit on January 29.

SANDERS! Larry Sanders has twice recorded career-highs in scoring over the past week, but he's also in the midst of a season-high two-game blockless streak. Something tells me he'll snap that streak tonight, especially given that Sanders blocked a career-high 10 shots against the Wolves back in November.

Sanders has averaged 12.8 ppg/11.7 rpg since the all-star break, and his current numbers (9.9 ppg, 9.5 rpg and 2.9 bpg) give him a chance to become the first guy since 2000 other than Marcus Camby to record 10/10/3 over a full season (Camby did it three times in that span). For more on Larry, be sure to check out Kevin Arnovitz's interview with him over at TrueHoop.