They finally picked things up and by the end of the first quarter, it was just a four-point game (25-29). Rick Adelman pulled the majority of his starters (namely Rubio & Love) early and got early looks at guys like Gorgui Dieng, Shabazz Muhammad and Othyus Jeffers. Jeffers was especially impressive first quarter as he went off for 6 points while also hitting the glass and playing lockdown perimeter defense.
Kevin Martin did NOT play tonight due to that sore achilles. In his place, Alexey Shved got the nod as the starting two-guard. Shved played pretty well, but throughout the game, he was especially effective when he was paired with J.J. Barea in the backcourt. That J.J.-Shved backcourt is something I really like, because it gives Shved the chance to be a bit more of a playmaker and it also gives the sparkplug J.J. a chance to be more of a shooting guard--and take some of the ball handling duties away from him.
Luke Ridnour got some run in the first quarter. He checked in with just over a minute to go in the first and it was very strange seeing him in a Bucks uniform (again) and seeing him matched up against J.J. Barea. Was a strange/cool moment.
In the second quarter, the Wolves picked it up a bit and outscored the Bucks 21-17 to knot it up at 46-all after two quarters. Robbie Hummel led the Wolves in scoring in the second quarter with 5 and John Henson led all scorers with 6. Henson had a very nice game, I was certainly impressed with him and was quite intrigued by the pairing of him and Sanders in the frontcourt. I don't know if those will be Larry Drew's starters to start the regular season (or if he'll go with Ersan Ilyasova at power forward--who was out for this one with an ankle sprain). A Henson-Sanders duo is athletically intriguing, but they give up a lot in the physicality 'category'. That was something that Pek made very clear tonight as he just pushed them around in the paint all night.
Ricky Rubio & Kevin Love didn't play after coming out midway through the first quarter. The only starter that played early in the second quarter was Nikola Pekovic, while Adelman continued to give some of the young guys, the rookies and those on un-guaranteed deals a longer look. In the second, Jeffers and Hummel (in particular) saw extended minutes. In addition to those young guys, Rick mixed in some of his veterans ie: Dante, Brewer, Pekovic & JJ.
After two quarters the Wolves were shooting just 39.5% from the field (17-43) and 14.3% from deep (1-7). The Wolves also had 10 turnovers in the first half, which is one less than they had total in both of their first two preseason games (11 apiece). The Bucks shot 51.4% from the field (19-37) and a lot of those buckets came on the fast break, with 14. The shot-blocking presence of Sanders & Henson was felt too, as the Bucks finished the first two quarters with 7 blocks.
The Timberwolves opened the third quarter with Barea, Shved, Brewer, Cunningham & Pekovic. The third quarter is when the Wolves got HOT from deep. They shot a perfect 6-of-6 from deep in that third quarter. After going just 1-of-7 from deep in the first half, they were 7-of-13 (53.8%) after three quarters.
Love & Rubio didn't get back on the floor in the third (or fourth), but we did see quite a bit of (the other three starters) Pekovic, Brewer & Shved.
After three, the Wolves held a four-point lead 75-71 as we went into the fourth quarter. It was clear that we wouldn't see too much of the starters in the final quarter. The same was for the Bucks as both head coaches were looking to get a good look at their deep rotation players.
Some things I saw that I really liked throughout this one...
1.) Shabazz driving to the rack and snagging rebounds on both ends.
2.) Dieng altering and blocking shots (some very emphatic returns), as well as some good rebounding.
3.) J.J. Barea as the sparkplug as well as that Barea-Shved backcourt duo.
4.) Othyus Jeffers' aggressiveness: layups/dunks, rebounds and perimeter D.
5.) Pek dominating weaker defenders in the paint.
6.) Minnesota's third quarter three-point shooting.
7.) The all-out play from the young players on the squad. In particular the two first-round rookies (Shabazz & Dieng) as well as Othyus Jeffers.
The Wolves rode their young guns down the stretch and they were a bit better than Milwaukee's as they were able to escape with a 99-89 win. The Wolves were led by Lorenzo Brown in the fourth, where he scored all six of his points, A.J. Price added 5 of his 10 and Gorgui Dieng, Othyus Jeffers and Robbie Hummel all added 4 apiece.
The Wolves now move to 2-1 in the preseason. Let's take a look at tonight's box score...
All four blocks for the Wolves came from rookie Gorgui Dieng and 4 of Milwaukee's 7 blocks came from their rookie Giannis.
It was clear that Adelman rode his young guns down the stretch, Minnesota finished with 65 bench points. With those younger players getting more time, who didn't see as much time? Love & Rubio both played just 11 minutes, Shved played 17 and Chris Johnson, Derrick Wiliams and Ronny Turiaf all did not play (coach's decision). This is the third-straight game that Johnson hasn't played and the chances of him being on the opening day roster just shrunk considerably (after not playing in three-straight games).
That's all for now, the Wolves will be back in action on Saturday night when they take on the Raptors again, this time at the Target Center.