Bucks tranquilize the Timberwolves to sweep the season series

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By Jake McCormick

Synopsis:
Two words: Total domination. In their 127-94 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Milwaukee Bucks shot a season best 57.6% from the field thanks to five players in double figures. The Bucks also held the Wolves to 38.4% to sweep the season series. Brandon Jennings recorded a career high 13 assists and Carlos Delfino led the team with 24 points. Delfino was also two rebounds and assists away from a triple double. It was a very unselfish and encouraging bounce back from a tough loss in Toronto, where the Bucks played 40 minutes of good basketball before succumbing to mediocrity in the fourth quarter.

“We did what we normally do,” coach Scott Skiles said. “We executed pretty well, moved the ball, found the open man and the shots were going on. We played a very unselfish game and carried it through the whole game.”

Plot:
The Bucks came out with their best Phoenix Suns impression to start the game, barely using the shot clock and taking the first open shot they could find. With the Wolves playing defense like the kids from The Big Green, running in am amorphus blob towards whoever happens to possess the ball, the Bucks shot 56% for the quarter to take an early 32-23 lead (12 fast break points). Jennings dished eight assists in nine minutes, and was driving the lane with authority. A Bogut steal and left-handed behind the back pass to Jennings, who returned the ball on an alley-oop that illicited an ESPN Top Plays theme song from Skiles at his post game press conference.

The Bucks continued to extend the lead with nothing but reserves (for all intents and purposes, Charlie Bell is a reserve), in the first half of the second quarter. Warrick came off the bench and scored seven points, mostly due to his signature leg kick jump shot. Milwaukee, understandably, took their foot off the pedal and worked the offense without a starter for the first five minutes to find open shots instead of settling for the first one available. The Bucks took a 55-45 lead into the half, thanks in large part to the team’s 52.3% field goal percentage and Minnesota’s overall ineptitude.

After making it rain from three like Philip Seymour Hoffman in Along Came Polly at the end of the first half, the Bucks opened the third with a Delfino trey and a Jennings bomb shortly after. Milwaukee got some good ball movement throughout the quarter, highlighted by a couple Delfino to Bogut scores that served as a reminder that Carlos Delfino, in fact, does not need to take every 20-25 foot shot he gets to be an asset. The Bucks continued to extend the lead to 85-67 at the end of the third, thanks in large part to the suckiness that is the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The fourth quarter was as predictable as a Friday the 13th movie: a lot of slashing, shooting, and mutilation. Milwaukee played a full game of unselfish, smart basketball against an obviously lesser team. Despite Friday’s loss and the 1-5 West Coast road trip, the Bucks have started putting together longer stretches of quality play, and Skiles was especially encouraged by the team’s overall energy and longevity in the win against Minnesota. The team is gradually finding its identity, and part of that involves beating the teams they should beat and sticking with the tougher, more battle hardened opponents.

We’re on a bit of an uptick,” Skiles said. “We’re starting to piece together longer moments of the game where we’re playing really well.”

Cast members:

Brandon Jennings
“I thought Brandon was very good,” Skiles said. “He had a normal, good floor game, penetrating and finding people. He’s working so hard on his game and shooting in particular and its nice to see it pay off for him.”

For the first nine minutes of the game, Jennings did his best Steve Nash/Chris Paul imitation (Coincidentally my two favorite non-Buck point guards) by notching eight assists. His chemistry with Bogut on fast breaks and quick passes has gotten stronger, and it’s only a matter of time (we can hope) until they develop into a full fledged two headed offensive monster. Although most if his assists came in the first quarter, they were more than enough to establish the Bucks as the dominant male early on.

Hakim Warrick
Warrick tallied 18 points on 7-8 shooting after not reaching double figures in four straight games. Not expected to contribute regularly at the beginning of the season, Warrick has picked up for the struggling Ilyasova and has averaged 13.4 ppg and 5.1 rpg in games where he plays more than 17 minutes after the New Year. When he’s on, Warrick has a good midrange shot and plays extremely athletically above the rim.

Carlos Delfino
Delfino has had problems knocking down outside, specifically corner, shots this year, but he’s seemed to have found his stroke lately and it has translated into a near triple double. He displayed a lot of athleticism in grabbing rebounds, running the fast break, and knocking down open shots all over the floor. Delfino played within himself the whole game, and turned up his best all-around performance of the season.

“He rebounded well again,and is always on defensive glass,” Skiles said. “He made good decisions and is good weapon when he’s knocking down his shots.”

Kevin Love
Love is a double-double machine workhorse. The Bucks did a good job of limiting his combined impact with Al Jefferson, but Love’s range and hustle make it hard to keep him completely at bay. Although he was 5-12 from the field, Love got to the line 10 times, making seven, and coupled with Jonny Flynn to keep the deficit from getting embarrassingly out of hand.

Jonny Flynn
Flynn was all over the court, grabbing rebounds, overrunning steal attempts, and knocking down a wide range of shots. He was making plays when the game was out of reach, and was clearly the quickest player on the court. Despite the fact that the game had all but been decided by halftime, Flynn continually gives Timberwolves reason to be encouraged about the future.

Reception:
As a fan of all teams Wisconsin, it was nice to see one dominate another from Minnesota, even though neither team is considered elite. Skiles was emphatic that the team has shown strong improvement in ball movement and responding to adversity. Beating a team they expect to beat definitely strengthens that case.

“We’re starting to appear to be more resilient,” Skiles said. “We didn’t have a carry over from (Toronto loss). I was really proud of the effort; we came out and really got after it. Even if the shots hadn’t gone in, the way were playing with the ball movement and unselfish play is really good to see.”

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