Mercifully, the dreaded West Coast road trip is over, and our heroes are back at Target Center for one game before heading out to Philadelphia on Tuesday. Tonight, the Timberwolves host the Bucks, and decided to incorporate more of a Bucks fan’s perspective. Fortunately, I was able to recruit Dakota Schmidt of Behind the Buck Pass, and D-League Digest to assist me in this endeavor.
Derek James: Locally, here in Minneapolis, tonight’s game is broadcast on network TV. Usually, when that’s the case, it’s because the Timberwolves are playing one of the NBA’s elite teams. Now, the Bucks may not be elite, but they are still 7-6 and atop the Central division. What about this Bucks team in particular should make fans tune into this game on a Friday night?
Dakota Schmidt: The thing that this Bucks team that could be of interest is that we’re just an extremely confusing but entertaining team. I really have no clue what this Bucks team will do game in and game out, but I know that I’m going to watch an entertaining game either from the antics of Jennings and Ellis or the Bucks bench, which is currently the best bench in all of basketball.
DJ: What concerns you the most about playing this Timberwolves team, and why?
DS: This Timberwolves team may be 6-8 but they’re still a team that scares the living hell out of me now when I see them on the Bucks’ schedule. Kevin Love is an animal and arguably the best PF in all of the NBA, so he’s a player you have to keep your eyes on every second he’s on the court. Henson will likely be guarding him and he’s been a solid player in the short time he’s been the starting PF but I really don’t know how he’ll be able to guard Kevin Love.
DJ: Conversely, what will be the biggest obstacle the Timberwolves will face against Milwaukee?
DS: The biggest obstacle that the Timberwolves will have against this Bucks team will be the Bucks’ bench. Minnesota has some good bench players like Cunningham and Shved but this Bucks bench has taken over games (i.e comeback vs. Chicago) and will be a huge challenge for this Wolves team that is currently somewhat banged up. The two main pieces of the Bucks bench have to be Beno Udrih and Mike Dunleavy who are both top 5 in PER on the Bucks so far this year (18.4 and 17.0 respectively).
DJ: The Bucks and Timberwolves rank 29th and 30th in three point percentage so far this season. Aside from the potential to witness some ugly basketball, could you see second chance points, and rebounding in general, playing a key role in the outcome of this game?
DS: I could see a whole lot of second-chance opportunities in this game but I really have a feeling it will be against the Bucks especially when they have a top rebounder in Kevin Love. The Bucks tried to load up the front-court in the off-season after trading Bogut for Ellis but they’re still allowing offensive rebounds. The way the Bucks are able to try to contain Kevin Love and, to a lesser extent Nikola Pekovic, on the glass will be a huge factor in this game.
DJ: One last thing. We have Packers-Vikings, anything Badgers-Gophers, and even Brewers-Twins, as area rivalries to some degree. Isn’t it funny how Bucks-Wolves isn’t regarded on that level? I mean, this isn’t even being billed as a border battle, so neither team is pretending this is one. Yet, it would seem if the Wolves would have one, it would be the Bucks. Why do you think this is? The quality of the teams over the years? Or the fact that they’re in different conferences, and only play each other twice per year?
This matchup has had no defining moments, ever, that I can think of. Maybe some of that would be helped if they saw each other more and even have the chance of a hard-fought playoff series. As it stands now, the two would have to meet in the Finals, if they were to meet in the playoffs. What do you think is keeping Bucks-Timberwolves from reaching the status of the other area rivalries?
DS: I really don’t know if I consider this exactly a border battle. Wisconsin and Minnesota are of course neighboring states but Milwaukee is on the eastern part of Wisconsin while Minneapolis is near that Minnesota/Wisconsin border. I really don’t consider this a rivalry because of the facts you stated which would be them being in separate conferences and they’ve both been mediocre teams in the past five seasons. Now I could really see something brewing with these two teams if they are both consistently in the playoff picture.
Projected Starting Fives:
Brandon Jennings — PG — Luke Ridnour
Monta Ellis — SG — Malcolm Lee
Tobias Harris — SF — Josh Howard (Kirilenko; out with back spasms.)
John Henson — PF — Kevin Love (Questionable; food poisoning.)
Samuel Dalembert — C — Nikola Pekovic