For perhaps the only time this season, all eyes will be on Nate Wolters.
As is custom for several teams during the preseason, the Bucks and Timberwolves will square off Thursday at a neutral site: Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The rookie played his college ball at South Dakota State University, located in Brookings, roughly 50 miles south of Sioux Falls.
Wolters, a native of St. Cloud, Minnesota, was met by a mini-mob of media upon the team’s arrival in Sioux Falls on Wednesday. According to C.F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wolters’ former college coach and teammates are expected to be in attendance.
“I’m sure it will be packed,” South Dakota State coach Scott Nagy told Gardner.
Sioux Falls’ Sanford Pentagon seats just 3,100, and the game has already sold out.
The Bucks enter Thursday’s game at 0-1 after falling to the Cavaliers 99-87 in Tuesday’s opener. Of course, preseason results are to be taken with a grain block of salt, and the new-look Bucks displayed plenty of positives despite the loss. Check out Cole Brown’s recap for all of the juicy details.
While much of the Sioux Falls crowd will be focused on Wolters – though it’s technically a home game for Minnesota – here are a few things to look for in Thursday’s matchup of fur-bearing, northwoods creatures:
Antetokounmpo’s encore: After a very encouraging debut in Tuesday’s loss to the Cavaliers, how will Milwaukee’s first round pick fare in his second taste of NBA action? The “Greek Freak” scored 14 points on 3-of-7 shooting to go with four rebounds and two assists in 29 minutes. Sure, he committed five turnovers and as many fouls, but he didn’t appear as overmatched as many – myself included – anticipated. More importantly, he was aggressive from the onset, getting to the free throw line a game-high 10 times. Antetokounmpo did most of his work in the second half against Cleveland’s bench, and it will be interesting to note how much – if at all – Larry Drew lets him run with the first group Thursday.
Ersan injured: Ilyasova departed Tuesday’s contest in the second quarter with a sprained ankle, and it appears to be a fairly serious injury, though initial X-rays did not reveal a fracture. He told the Journal Sentinel after the game that he’s never twisted his ankle this badly and was unable to put any weight on it. There is almost no chance he plays Thursday, which should open the door for John Henson to start at power forward. He’ll match up with Minnesota’s Kevin Love, who will drag him away from the basket more than most power forwards.
Pekovic vs. Sanders: Both centers signed lucrative extensions this summer and both play very different styles. Pekovic is a bruiser in the low post but doesn’t bring much to the table defensively. Sanders is the opposite, relying on finesse to finish inside, while utilizing his ridiculous length to contest shots on the other end of the court. In their final matchup last season (April 3), Pekovic got the best of Sanders, scoring 27 points (11-of-14 FG) and grabbing eight rebounds in the Minnesota victory. For entertainment sake, it will also be nice to see Pekovic matched up with fellow-Yugoslavian/terrifying man Miroslav Raduljica at some point.
Will the backcourt find its stroke? The starting guard combo of O.J. Mayo and Brandon Knight combined to score just 11 points on 4-of-18 shooting in their Milwaukee debut. Granted, they each played only 20 minutes, but that kind of offensive inefficiency was what Milwaukee hoped to eliminate when Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings left town this summer.
Martin Hampered: The Wolves’ Kevin Martin sat out the second half of Wednesday’s game against the Raptors with what the team called a “sore Achilles.” It’s unknown whether he’ll be in the lineup Thursday, but if he’s held out Alexey Shved is the likely replacement at shooting guard.
The game tips off at 7:00 PM central with coverage on FSN Wisconsin.