Bucks-Timberwolves analysis: Wins are a point of view


Brandon Jennings

AP Photo/Jim Prisching

It’s never a good thing when Andrew Bogut plays 23 minutes and attempts five shots in a game against a less than impressive front line. But Milwaukee Bucks coach Scott Skiles had a few interesting lineup combinations that ultimately carried the Bucks to their 94-88 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

By Jake McCormick

Read the Milwaukee Bucks/Minnesota Timberwolves game recap.
The Timberwolves are very physical under the basket, and it showed in the form of a combined 13 fouls between Andrew Bogut, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Ersan Ilyasova. As a result, the Bucks played most of the second half (and some of the first) with their smallest possible lineup of Brandon Jennings, John Salmons/Keyon Dooling, Carlos Delfino, Corey Maggette, and Jon Brockman.

This shooter-heavy rotation (that term is used very loosely) was a major factor in keeping the Bucks close long enough to build up a run that sealed the game for good late in the fourth. With Brockman on the floor as the only true post player, the Bucks’ guard/forward combinations were free to slash in and out of the paint and swing the ball along the perimeter long enough for someone to break open.

Odds are that foul trouble is the only way this lineup becomes a trend for the unpredictable rotation of Bucks coach Scott Skiles. But nearly everything has been tried and tried again this season to little success, so it makes sense that an extremely unlikely unorthodox lineup would net a win for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Pessimist: The Minnesota Timberwolves Are Really Bad

Putting away the team with the second worst record in the NBA shouldn’t be a 48 minute task, even for the Bucks. One such occasion came about when the Bucks managed to stretch out a seven point lead after a John Salmons three pointer with 4:30 to play, Luke Ridnour converted a three point play to bring the Wolves back within four.

This was the Minnesota Timberwolves, a team that was ranked 30th in points allowed per game heading into Tuesday’s matchup, and had a total of four road wins in 28 games. Any other team would’ve made Milwaukee pay for their sloppy shooting, missed bunny layups, and high big man foul totals.

Instead the Timberwolves made crisp passes to waiting Bucks defenders, short-rimmed open shot attempts, and played defense like it was an inconvenience to their rebounding efforts. Even bad defenses aren’t an antidote to the Bucks’ bad offense, but enough self-inflicted gunshot wounds (18 turnovers for Minnesota) can offset a sub 40% shooting performance (38% to be exact).

Optimist: Brandon Jennings Threw His Weight Around

First Brandon Jennings griped about not being trusted with the Bucks offense late in games. Then he tanked when it mattered most against the Denver Nuggets. Now he followed through with an admirable performance, albeit against a defense that makes tackling dummies look like more formidable opponents.

Jennings was Milwaukee’s biggest asset in the final 1:17 of the game, draining five of six free throws in that stretch to push the Bucks’ lead from two to six points. Jennings also had his best night as a passer since Milwaukee’s December 15 loss to the San Antonio Spurs, notching seven assists.

By going to the rim often and putting pressure on the Timberwolves defense to make a coverage decision, Brandon Jennings opened the floor up for Salmons, Maggette, Delfino, and Dooling to receive a kick out pass rewarded with an open look. As always, hitting those shots is another story, but Jennings was the most valuable player on the court for the Bucks for the first time in a long time.

Realist: What A Difference A Year Makes In The NBA

If this was the 2009-10 Bucks, a slop-fest win would’ve brought out questions about the team’s flaws and whether they would be an issue going into the playoffs. But since we’re in 2011, and Milwaukee is light years away from their 46-win season of a year ago, we call a 94 point performance in a victory better than expected.

The Bucks’ familiar shooting and chemistry problems were there against the Timberwolves, and they will most likely be present tonight when the Bucks take on the New York Knicks, another team that sees defense as a waste of energy.

As the NBA Trading Deadline nears, the Milwaukee Bucks don’t look like they’re poised to deal like in past years under GM John Hammond. With the exception of the potential addition of Michael Redd at some point, the current Bucks roster will most likely remain the same until May.

Unless you’re hoping for an NBA Lottery entry instead of an NBA playoff berth, the 2010-11 Milwaukee Bucks season is drawing closer and closer to being labeled a disappointment. Thankfully, there’s always next year.

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