The Minnesota Timberwolves have notched back-to-back wins for the first time in 2013 and the first time since mid-December when the Wolves won four-straight.
The Wolves have now also won two-straight games over Eastern Conference playoff teams (after beating Boston, Monday night).
The now 28-46 Timberwolves are just one win shy of Rick Adelman's 1000th career win. With matchups against Toronto (Friday) & Detroit (Saturday), there's a very good chance he'll reach that milestone. With just eight games left on the season, there's an (VERY) outside chance the Wolves could win 34 games this season, which would be the highest single season Wolves win total since 2004-05 when they won 44. 34 wins would top 33 in 05-06 & 32 in 06-07. With Monday's win in Boston, that's the highest win total since 06-07 (32).
The Wolves were able to build a lead in this one and despite a number of Milwaukee Buck runs, Minnesota was ultimately able to keep the Bucks at an arm's length for the majority of this one, that allowed them to secure this 9-point W.
The Wolves have gone 5-3 in their last 8 games. So, what's been the key to their recent success? Stellar play from Ricky Rubio & Nikola Pekovic have boosted the Wolves to big wins over the Thunder, Celtics & now the Bucks this past week. However, I think Minnesota's success can be attributed to finally developing some rapport with a stabilized starting lineup. With Andrei Kirilenko & Nikola Pekovic out of the lineup for a length stint with injuries really hurt Minnesota, but they've finally bounced back and in a big way.
Nikola Pekovic had 22 & 15 vs. the Thunder last week, 29 & 5 vs. the Celtics on Monday and tonight he added to his recent hot streak with 27 & 8. He's gaining a lot of confidence and making the most of every opportunity. In those matchups he faced Kendrick Perkins, Chris Wilcox & Larry Sanders. On Friday he'll be facing the Raptors' Jonas Valanciunas, no reason to think he won't continue his dominance on the meek Eastern Conference centers.
Ricky Rubio finished just two steals shy of another triple-double. He got going early in this one with his hot shooting. That's not something you use to be able to say about Rubio, but with his stellar stat sheet stuffing play--his newfound offensive play has warranted that. Rubio went a perfect 5-of-5 from deep in the first half and finished 5-of-6 on the night. His five threes & six attempts are new career-highs. Add to that his eight steals...that's another new career-high. He finished with 19-4-12-8 on the night. There are very few players in the NBA today that could actually get a quadruple double in today's NBA. Ricky Rubio will be a threat to accomplish that throughout his career.
Let's take a look at tonight's box score...
In the preview of this game, I talked a lot about the Bucks' three guards: Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis & J.J. Redick. I figured if the Bucks were going to win, they would have to be led by big games from those three key players. Each ultimately struggled and the result was a nine-point Milwaukee loss.
A player I overlooked or didn't give much thought to was Ersan Ilyasova. I'm well aware that Ersan is a very capable and versatile big man that's always a threat for a points-rebound double-double. A lesser version of Kevin Love. A big guy who can step out and hit threes, battles on the boards and can carry a team when he gets hot. Unfortunately the 2012-13 season has been all about inconsistency for Ilyasova. Tonight he excelled and finished with 29 points & 12 rebounds (8 offensive).
That was one thing that drove me crazy tonight: allowing offensive rebounds. The Bucks finished with 20 offensive boards, 8 from Ersan & 5 from Sanders. The Wolves were able to make up for all the second chance opportunities in other areas...
The Wolves finished shooting 52.5% from the field, a season-best 61.5% from three (thank you Ricky), a season-best 33 assists (thank you Ricky), got out on the break for 15 points--a +10 and 58 points in the paint, a +20 (thank you Nikola). With all those positives, they were able to make up for the second chance opportunities, 20 team turnovers and 11-for-16 (68.8%) from the line.
With tonight's win the Wolves have swept the season series vs. Milwaukee and snapped a three-game losing streak in Milwaukee. The Wolves will be back in action on Friday night, back at the Target Center vs. the Toronto Raptors. Until then, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!