Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves (27-46) @ Milwaukee Bucks (36-27)


Mar 27, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Monta Ellis (11) during the third quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers defeated the Bucks 100-92. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucks would make for a great border battle rivalry if not for the fact that they have been almost as uninspiring a basketball team for almost as long as the Wolves have  — that, and they are in the Eastern Conference living the good life, while the Wolves scratch and claw their way out West.

“It’s the only major America city to have ever elected three Socialist mayors” is a fact you can pull out whenever you get stuck in a conversation about Scott Walker and the politics of the greater-Milwaukee area.

Bucks probable starting lineup:

PG Brandon Jennings

SG Monta Ellis

SF Marquis Daniels

PF Ersan Ilyasova


The Ray Allen-Stephon Marbury trade gave the Bucks a vanilla star to pair with other boring jump shooters Glenn Robinson, Sam Cassell and eventually Michael Redd. They’ve suffered through the Scott Skiles era’s mismatched personnel — who thought the Jennings/Ellis backcourt was tailor-made for Skiles? It’s bad sitcom comedic gold, but it is also as electric a backcourt as there is in the entire league, and as soon as Skiles surrendered at the beginning of this year, it was only a matter of time until the reigns loosened enough for Milwaukee to see what they had. Or so the theory goes…

Ellis has shot 40% or under for every month of the season until a switch went off at the beginning of March when he shot 48%. He will throw a 3-11 (March 13th against Miami) or a 3-17 (last Saturday against OKC), but it’s about every 5 games he has a dreadful shooting night instead of the other way around. Monta is at 22 points a game, 6 assists and 2 steals a game since the beginning of March.

Jennings hasn’t had any such epiphanies. He’s shot 37% from the field in each of the last 2 months,  averaged 9 assists for March, and is coming off a benching by coach Jim Boylan last Wednesday in Philadelphia.

If Ilyasova hadn’t had such a rough start to the season, maybe Skiles would still be in Milwaukee — so in a way we should be thanking the young Turk. After signing his big contract extension, the Bucks starting power forward averaged 5, 6, 7.6 and 7.6 rebounds a game before completely righting the ship in March with 10 a night (to go with 20 points and 1.5 3s on 47% shooting from the floor) — it’s safe to say Ilyasova is back.

Wolves probable starting lineup:

PG Ricky Rubio

SG Luke Ridnour

SF Andrei Kirilenko

PF Derrick Williams

C Nikola Pekovic

Pek could have trouble with LARRY SANDERS!!! tonight like he did earlier this season when he provided multiple opportunities for his shot to be thrown back in his face. SANDERS!!! is exactly the type of player — read: long — that gives Pek fits, but after the stroll Pek had against Boston and the beast mode he was in against OKC (before sitting against Memphis), Nikola could have some work to do tonight in Milwaukee.

Tempting as it is to read into any performance from the Boston massacre at Target Center Monday, AK hasn’t looked himself for weeks and if he builds on the success of that night, the Wolves would be better for it, as Mbah a Moute will likely be out for a 4th straight game and Mike Dunleavy could be his only chore of the night as soon as the Marquis Daniels charade is given up.

Jennings had some sharp words for Rubio before his rookie year, which he has since backed off of, but Jennings quickness against Rubio’s reach and craftiness should make for an enticing matchup.

Much more enticing than Ellis v. Ridnour. Let’s hope Luke can hit enough shots to make it doable.