Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves (6-8) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (7-6)


Like the Wolves, the Milwaukee Bucks had started off the season hot, running up an early 6-2 record. Also like the Wolves, the bucks have swooned of late, losing 4 of their last 5.

With quality early wins over Boston, Indiana, and Chicago, the Bucks have looked like a playoff contender, also beating struggling teams like Washington, Cleveland, and New Orleans. Their one glaring, lowlight loss has been to Charlotte, who also beat the Wolves.

Bucks probable starting lineup:

PG Brandon Jennings

SG Monta Ellis

SF Tobias Harris

PF John Henson

C Samuel Dalembert

Last year’s breakout-Buck, Ersan Ilyasova, signed a fat contract and has failed to live it down so far this season, averaging 7 points and 5 rebounds on 35% shooting. Despite the squad’s quality start to the season, he languished in the starting lineup until 2 games ago, when he was replaced by rookie John Henson.

Ilyasova responded to the benching with 18 points on 14 shots, to go with 6 boards. He followed that up by not scoring in 13 minutes against New York.

Coach Scott Skiles has been searching for a solution. The last 3 games he’s given Dalembert, (Monticello native) Joel Przybilla, Henson, and Harris a shot in the starting front court.

3rd year center Larry Sanders has had two double-doubles on the year, is averaging 2 blocks a contest and 54% from the field. The most productive big on the Bucks roster has yet to make a start, but is averaging 22 minutes a game.

As surprising a disappointment as Ilyasova has been so far, Brandon Jennings has been the opposite. Averaging a career best 7 assists per game to go with his league-leading 2.9 steals, Jennings came out the gate smoking, though he has shown signs of regressing to his career averages over his last 5 (15/5/40%).

Backcourt mate, Monta Ellis has also struggled over the Bucks last 5, averaging 17 points, 4 assists and 42% field goal shooting (13% from 3).

Wolves probable starting lineup:

PG Luke Ridnour

SG Malcolm Lee

SF Josh Howard

PF Kevin Love

C Nikola Pekovic

The balky back of Andrei Kirilenko made the loss to the Clippers tough to stomach. Absent their 3 best perimeter players, the Wolves played the Clips to a crunch-time standstill behind the timely 3-point shooting of rookie Alexey Shved and the one man free throw parade that was Kevin Love.

Like a broken record — all together now: The Wolves should  have a huge advantage inside and a monumental mismatch in the backcourt. Any delineation from this pattern should be a noted advantage in favor of the winner.

Ladies and Gentlemen: the Minnesota Timberwolves, where backcourt slumps go to die.

Topics: Ersan Ilyasova, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, Scott Skiles

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