Timberwolves-Bucks Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 27, 2011
The Milwaukee Bucks weren't feeling good about themselves after coughing up a big lead in their season opener. Despite also coming up short in their first game, the Minnesota Timberwolves had a more optimistic attitude. A night after solid debuts from Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams, the Timberwolves will hope for a better result Tuesday as they try to spoil Milwaukee's home opener. Minnesota (0-1) got good news twice in June, finding out early in the month that Rubio - the fifth pick in the 2009 draft - had agreed to sign with the Timberwolves, then later selecting Williams with the No. 2 overall pick. Those two helped bring Minnesota back from as many as 12 down in the third quarter to take the lead early in the fourth in Monday's season opener against Oklahoma City, but the Thunder made enough plays down the stretch to escape with a 104-100 win. "That's a team that's a contender and we took them down to the last minute," said Minnesota forward Kevin Love, who had 22 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. "The best thing is we gave ourselves a chance and if we play like that the rest of the season and continue to get better we're going to win a lot of games." Williams had nine of his 13 points in the second half while Rubio finished with six points, six assists and no turnovers in 26 minutes. "I feel comfortable on the court and I feel like I helped the team,'' Rubio said. "We didn't get it in the end, but we have a chance. If we go this way, we can do a lot of good things.'' The Bucks (0-1) couldn't have played much better halfway through Monday's season debut in Charlotte, holding a 59-45 lead early in the third. However, Milwaukee's impressive early defense disappeared, and the Bobcats came roaring back to win 96-95. Charlotte held a 52-39 edge on the boards, 15 of which came on the offensive end. "They took it to us in the third quarter and we had a hard time responding,'' Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "They got all over the offensive glass and we were flat-footed. They were quicker and more athletic. They outplayed us in the third quarter and took control of the game.'' Minnesota and Milwaukee typically play twice each season, but with the shortened schedule Tuesday's meeting is the only time they'll see each other in 2011-12. That's not to say they aren't familiar with one another. The Timberwolves and Bucks played a home-and-home during the preseason, with Minnesota winning 117-96 at the Target Center on Dec. 17 before escaping Milwaukee on Wednesday with an 85-84 victory. Love averaged 21.5 points and 15.5 boards in the wins. Williams had 14 points in 21 minutes in the first matchup, while Rubio had six points and six assists before sitting out the road contest. Last regular season, Love averaged 18.5 points and 16.5 rebounds while Michael Beasley averaged 21.0 points as the Timberwolves and Bucks split two meetings, each winning at home. Brandon Jennings, who had a team-high 22 points for Milwaukee in Monday's loss, has averaged 22.5 points, 10.0 assists and 3.0 steals in two career regular-season home meetings against Minnesota. Jennings helped pick up the slack Monday for Stephen Jackson, who had six points in his Bucks debut before fouling out in just 17 minutes. Jackson may have a good chance to bounce back, as he's averaged 32.0 points in his last three games versus Minnesota. Milwaukee is seeking to win its home opener for the eighth time in nine seasons. Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman will miss Tuesday's game to attend funeral services for his mother-in-law. Bucks forward Drew Gooden also won't be in attendance, having been suspended one game for his flagrant foul in the opener. He was ejected late in the third quarter for hitting Charlotte's Gerald Henderson in the head with his arm. Gooden had only four points after averaging 11.3 last season.
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