Milwaukee Bucks (0-1) VS Minnesota Timberwolves (0-1)
Last game: Timberwolves: L, 104-100 vs OKC, Bucks: L, 96-95 vs CHA
The Timberwolves are coming off a simultaneously disappointing and very much encouraging loss to one of the best teams in the Western Conference. Milwaukee choked away a last minute lead to the Charlotte Bobcats, allowing Cardiac Kemba Walker to beat them with two free throws in the last 9 seconds. Don’t feel bad, Milwaukee. You aren’t the first. Or the second. Or the third.
The Key Questions
#1. So about those three pointers…
3-22 last night against the Thunder. 3 for freaking 22. So much positive stuff went down yesterday that it’s hard to REALLY fault a young team for missing some jittery threes, but if the Wolves had even shot 5-22, that makes up for the point differential (and then some) in a game against (did we mention this?) the best team in the Western Conference. 5-22 is roughly 22%. I don’t ask for much guys.
In the first preseason game against the Bucks, Minnesota was much more impressive from long range, shooting 15-24 for 62% from behind the arc. Look for some of the nervous jitters to be gone, and hopefully for some more shots to fall.
#2. How much will Minnesota’s depth and youth help on the second night of a back to back?
As we have mentioned several times before, one advantage Minnesota may have this season is the ability to play in a compressed schedule without being too gassed from the night before. Not only do the Wolves have multiple quality backups at pretty much every position, but the entire team has roughly the same age and energy level of Hickory High School.
This will be a nice test for Minnesota. Milwaukee is clearly not as good as OKC, but this game is on the road, and these teams have faced each other twice already in the preseason. It will be interesting to see if the Wolves can use their talented youth to their advantage.
#3. Which Michael Beasley will show up?
Ok, so I really just wanted an excuse to talk about his performance last night.
Beasley’s box score last night was SO Michael Beasley. He was 11-27, scoring 24 points. A super inefficient shooting percentage, 20+ points, ho hum. Same old, same old, right? That’s what I thought too, especially when his first three shots of the night were contested jumpers that he bricked badly, or airballed entirely.
But to me, Beasley actually demonstrated some incredibly encouraging signs. For starters, he played excellent defense on Kevin Durant, as Jonah pointed out in his recap. He contested, he moved his feet, he bothered Durant, he worked hard. Read that last one again: Michael Beasley worked really hard on defense. I’m aware Durant dropped 33, but take it from an eyewitness: without Beasley’s hard work, it could have been 50. Easily.
But Beasley looked a lot better on offense as well. STOP LAUGHING. Yes, there were still inefficient jumpers, and he missed most of them. But there were also lots of possessions when he played more like a power forward, and that is one of his strengths. When Beasley plays the three, his opponent was very much mismatched, and Beasley seemed to recognize who would be out of position guarding him in the post. Even better, there were several times when Beasley could have settled for a long two pointer, but instead used his blazing speed to drive to the rim. Again: his stat line was inefficient, but he made some really encouraging plays that look like positive first steps. With some patience, maybe Adelman really can work a miracle. Lots of people will think I’m crazy for that last paragraph, and that’s fine. Just don’t write Beasley off as trade bait quite yet.
The Key Match-ups
Speaking of stat lines that are SO Michael Beasley, the Wolves face Brandon Jennings tonight! Jennings scored 22 points on 8-21 shooting against the Bobcats. I wasn’t able to watch the game, so I honestly don’t know if he showed any improvement efficiency-wise, but the smart money is on “no.”
On Minnesota’s end, it’ll be interesting to see how long Adelman keeps Rubio out of the starting lineup. As much as I like Ridnour (and I really do, his mid-range jumper is truly superb), the Timberwolves play their favorite style of basketball with Rubio running the show, as they demonstrated last night, ending the game with Rubio, Barea, Williams, Beasley, and Love in crunch time. For the record, Kurt Rambis would NEVER have thought to put those five players on the floor at the same time. (“Play my best five players and make the defense adjust to us? YOU ARE SPEAKING CRAZY WORDS, SIR. Burn the witch and run the Triangle.”)
Elsewhere, Andrew Bogut did Andrew Bogut-y things, with 17 points and 9 rebounds. Bogut sometimes struggles against Darko’s length, so we’ll see if Kevin Love gets as much time at center as he did last night.
It will also be interesting to see if Michael Beasley can bring the same kind of defensive focus against Ersan Ilyasova that he did against Durant. Ilyasova isn’t the kind of punisher that Durant is, but he’s sneaky good, and it will be a really good sign for Beas if he can exhibit similar defensive focus against a team like Milwaukee.
A bench battle that only geeky idiots like myself could truly appreciate: Beno Udrih and Luke Ridnour are actually exactly the same player. Please, Adelman and Scott Skiles? Give me this match-up just for funsies.
Expect another fun game. Worst case scenario, the Wolves have a letdown and let a winnable game slip through their fingers, which would be painful entering a week in which they play Miami, Dallas, San Antonio, and Memphis. Best case scenario: the first win of the Ricky Rubio era.
Game starts at 7:30 on Fox Sports North