Wolves Handle Bucks, Win 98-89

Wolves Handle Bucks, Win 98-89

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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There were daily reports during Training Camp of the Wolves’ second and third string groups holding their own against the starting five—at times, they even won head-to-head scrimmages with the first unit. Over the past three games, they’ve showed that storyline isn’t mutually exclusive to in-house scrimmages.

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Wolves vs. Bucks

Minnesota pulled away in the second and third quarters and held on for a 98-89 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D., thanks in large part to the variety of scoring and tenacious defending its bench players added throughout the night. Minnesota’s bench accounted for 65 of the team’s 98 points, and four of the five players who registered in double figures didn’t start the game on Thursday night.

That’s not helping coach Rick Adelman and his staff decide who will or won’t make the team when the Wolves are required to trim down their roster to 15 players at the end of the month.

“I think it’s getting a little cloudier,” Adelman said. “They’re all doing a good job. That’s what it’s all about. I like the way some of the guys played in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. They’re not intimidated by it.”

Nor were they intimidated by the surprisingly loud crowd’s affection toward Milwaukee guard Nate Wolters, a rookie who became a fan favorite in the state while playing for South Dakota State University. While Thursday was billed as a home game for Minnesota, there were just as many fans wearing Jackrabbits blue and gold cheering for Wolters, who got a surprise start at point guard to commemorate his special night.

That energy from Wolters’ spot in the starting lineup carried over early, and Minnesota found itself down 15-4 right out of the gates while shooting 0-for-6 from the field. They cut the lead to four by the end of the first, then began taking control through the middle portion of the contest. Minnesota stole the momentum away with solid defensive stops and the way their reserves took charge when they started gaining their minutes.

Othyus Jeffers, who led the team with 13 points on the night, also brought his defensive intensity with him. Gorgui Dieng blocked four shots on the night while protecting the rim, Robbie Hummel primarily played the 4 and knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and Shabazz Muhammad grabbed four offensive rebounds. In all, the Wolves forced 23 turnovers on the night.

“We are starting to get to know each other well,” Dieng said. “I know what a lot of people can do now, and what people can do to help this basketball team. We just building right now, but I feel like we are playing as a team.”

The Wolves knocked down all six of its 3-pointers during the third quarter—led by a collection of sharp-shooting from Corey Brewer in the corner, Alexey Shved on the wing and J.J. Barea. It was during that third quarter that Minnesota grabbed its biggest lead of the night at nine points.

But Milwaukee came right back in the fourth, trimming the Wolves’ lead to one as late as under five minutes remaining. The Wolves endured thanks to scoring across the board from that bench group. Five players scored four points or more during that final quarter.

“I think we got off to a pretty slow start. Then we came in and finally turned it on,” Muhammad said. “We were energized, it was really good for us. I thought we played really hard out there tonight."

Jeffers led the way with 13 points, while Muhammad had 11 and A.J. Price, Robbie Hummel and Nikola Pekovic added 10 each. Alexey Shved, who started in place of Kevin Martin (who sat out as a precautionary measure with a sore Achilles), and Corey Brewer each had nine points.

For the Bucks, John Henson led the team with 16 points. Caron Butler had 13, Khris Middleton had 12 and Wolters finished with 10.

Leader of the Pack: Othyus Jeffers & Shabazz Muhammad

The pair of Wolves newcomers put together a nice showing on Thursday night. Jeffers led the team with 13 points and hit 5-of-9 from the field, but he also played the same type of defense he’s shown throughout camp that really helped keep the Bucks’ wings at bay in the second half. He added a steal and six boards—three on the offensive end. Muhammad continues to impress simply by doing the little things. He did score 11 points tonight, but he also had good shot selection, hit 5-of-6 free throws (a team high) and added three offensive rebounds.

Highlight of the Night

With the Wolves trying to take the Bucks’ momentum away early in the second quarter, Jeffers stepped in front of a Stephen Graham pass and came up with the steal. He then took it alone on the fast break and finished with an aggressive one-handed slam. That was a defining defensive stop during a quarter in which the Wolves created a bit of separation. Jeffers continues to show throughout this camp and preseason that he is an aggressive defensive player with a lot of energy, but he also is athletic and can finish at the rim.

The Numbers Game

  • The Wolves shot 6-of-6 from 3-point range in the third after going 1-for-7 from distance in the first half.

  • Nate Wolters is a St. Cloud native, but he made quite a name for himself here playing for South Dakota State. SDSU is located in Brookings, which is 60 miles north of Sioux Falls on Interstate-29.

  • The Bucks shot 47 percent tonight from the field but they also turned the ball over 23 times.

  • Minnesota held a 46-32 points in the paint advantage, and they also had a slight 18-12 edge in second chance points. The Bucks came away with a 21-13 advantage in fast break points.

  • Quote of the Night

    “Yeah, now I know why we played here,” — Wolves coach Rick Adelman joking about why the Wolves and Bucks played in Sioux Falls, referencing the crowd’s backing of SDSU grad Nate Wolters.

    Looking Ahead

    The Wolves will have their first off day since Media Day (Sept. 30) tomorrow after returning from Sioux Falls. They will then play Saturday night at Target Center in a rematch with the Raptors with tipoff at 7 p.m. That will be their fourth game in six days, and at that point the team will get a week off before heading to Montreal for their game against the Boston Celtics as part of the NBA Canada Series on Oct. 20.

    For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter, and join the conversation at WolvesNation.com