After a thorough drubbing in Brooklyn on Friday, the Bucks return home to host the Minnesota Timberwolves in a battle of fur-bearing, Northwoods creatures.
Larry Sanders’ somewhat highly anticipated return Friday night was marred by continued offensive struggles from the league’s worst scoring team. The Bucks shot just 37.5 percent from the field and 9-for-32 from three point range. Ersan Ilyasova, Khris Middleton, Brandon Knight and Caron Butler combined for just nine makes in 42 attempts. That’s not very good.
Milwaukee returns home to face a Minnesota team they have yet to face this season. The Wolves are coming off of a blowout, 120-98 victory over Washington on Friday night. After an encouraging start to the season, Minnesota has plateaued a bit and currently sits at 14-15. But they certainly have the talent to compete for a playoff bid in the competitive Western Conference. Ricky Rubio doesn’t seem to be developing quite as rapidly as some expected, but he’s still one of the league’s best young point guards, and Kevin Love has solidified himself as a top-10 player in the NBA. Entering Saturday, Love is averaging 25.9 points and 13.8 rebounds, while Rubio averages 8.1 assists and 2.7 steals.
Nikola Pekovic has found success against Milwaukee in the past, and the bruising center will be a difficult matchup for Milwaukee’s big men. He’s started all 29 games this season and is averaging 17.4 points and 9.0 rebounds.
What to watch for:
- Containing Love: Love’s combination of outside shooting, inside scoring and voracious rebounding makes him one of the most difficult covers in the league. For a Milwaukee team lacking a stretch four capable of keeping up with Love’s movement, it could be a long night for Henson, Sanders, Ilyasova and Co.
- Giannis watch: At this point in the season, all eyes in Milwaukee are on the young rookie. He’s proven capable of being a productive starting shooting guard – read: 16 points, 10 rebounds Friday – though his presence in the lineup has not translated to victories. He’s not going to put up 16 and 10 on a nightly basis (yet), but he’s improving game-to-game and should have an opportunity to exploit a notoriously poor defender in Kevin Martin should they be matched up.
- #TheReturn: When a team undergoes a near-complete roster overhaul, there are going to be a lot of returns. One of those comes in the form of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, whom the Wolves acquired from Sacramento in exchange for Derrick Williams. The Prince is averaging just 4.1 points in 18.3 minutes, but he remains one of the league’s most versatile defenders. Anything less than a full-on video tribute with pyrotechnics will be a disgrace to his legacy in Milwaukee.
- Back on track: After a string of solid all-around performances, Brandon Knight struggled Friday night against bigger defenders in Deron Williams and Shaun Livingston. Though Rubio ranks second in the league in steals, he’s not overly quick laterally, and Knight should have opportunities to get to the hoop. Pekovic and Love aren’t known for their defense either, so it will be a matter of shot selection for Milwaukee’s second-leading scorer.
Points: Love (25.9), Mayo (13.9)
Rebounds: Love (13.8), Henson (8.0)
Assists: Rubio (8.1), Knight (4.5)
Blocks: Dieng (.80), Henson (2.3)
PG – Ricky Rubio
SG – Kevin Martin
SF – Corey Brewer
PF – Kevin Love
C – Nikola Pekovic
PG – Brandon Knight
SG – Giannis Antetkounmpo
SF – Khris Middleton
PF – Ersan Ilyasova
C – John Henson