The Delicate Line: Timberwolves 112, Bucks 101

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There comes a point in every Timberwolves season when the playoffs fade into the distance and a decision must be made as to whether the team wants to continue gunning for wins or accept the unpleasant reality that its season ends after the 82nd game.

Minnesota, quite frankly, passed that point quite some time ago, but Wolves fans have understandably been hesitant to give up the ghost of this season. Now, five games out of the playoffs and trailing the Phoenix Suns for even the 9th seed, the Wolves need to figure out whether wins are worthwhile or whether taking a small dive off the rest of the year to minimally improve draft lottery odds is the right decision to make. It’s a tough call — both directions offer limited rewards. Wins won’t get Minnesota into the playoffs, but even a 19-game losing streak would likely leave the Wolves well out of contention for a top-five pick (and frankly, I’m not sure this fanbase could survive a 19-game losing streak).

But before any of that, the Wolves had to beat the Bucks on Tuesday.

They really had to. Milwaukee is so bad this year and Minnesota is so middling, a loss would have broken the backs of a heck of a lot of camels. Fortunately, Kevin Martin and JJ Barea both found their strides in time for the Wolves to knock off the worst team in basketball.

Minnesota trailed for much of the first half, as Milwaukee came out blazing hot. But gradually, the Wolves chipped away until a nice run in the third quarter pushed them into the lead.

We haven’t done bullet points in a while, so let’s go through a few of them:

  • Don’t look now, but Rubio is shooting 45 percent in his last 13 games, as was pointed out on last night’s broadcast. What’s more, he is 10-for-22 from 3-point range in those games, and his trey last night lent some credence to this theory (shamless self-promo alert).
  • Speaking of the broadcast, the best moment of the night may have been Jim Peterson wondering who would win a head-butting contest between Nikola Pekovic and Zaza Pachulia. “I’m not betting against Pekovic in any kind of physical contest,” Dave Benz responded.

    Pek, your thoughts?

    Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 1.25.52 PM
    Yep. I also choose Pek.

  • It felt like Kevin Love spent much of the game hanging back away from the ball, which is why it was such a surprise to check the box score post-game and see “27 points on 22 shots with 10 rebounds and six assists.”
  • ESPN pointed this out: Luc Ricard Mbah a Moute hosted a bunch of kids from the south of France who had bought tickets to come see him in Sacramento. When he was traded, he picked up the tab for them to come see him in Minnesota. This story has a depressing ending though: LRMAM got a DNP-CD.
  • Steve McPherson of AWAW pointed this out on Twitter and he’s absolutely right: There would likely be a lot less animosity toward JJ Barea if he played in more lineups with Ricky Rubio and fewer lineups where he’s the primary ball-handler. Largely playing off the ball last night, Barea was 7-for-10 with 19 points.

That should cover things. Quick note: Be on the lookout for a couple new contributors at Howlin T-Wolf. One of them, Zach Bennett, already got the ball rolling yesterday.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

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