What a heartbreaker. After what some were calling the Wolves’ signature win against Golden State (who haven’t quite been themselves recently) two nights ago, there was hope that this team could keep the momentum going and pick up another win desperately needed to gain ground on Denver for the 8th seed.
Sadly, the Bucks had other plans. This was a must-win game for them as well as they try to fend off the confusingly competent Heat for control of their own conference’s 8th seed. They extended their win streak to six games, the longest current streak in the NBA, by virtue of their long-armed defensive switchiness, seven players in double digit scoring and 40% three point shooting.
The Wolves had plenty of chances throughout this game, which was tied at the half and within a point at the end of the third quarter. KAT and Rubio hoisted this team onto their backs and did everything they could to drag the tired Wolves to the finish line, but Milwaukee is too long, athletic, and versatile a team to beat with only two players. After Rubio made a jump shot with 2:49 left in the game to cut the Bucks’ lead to 95-93, the Wolves went on an impressive cold streak, missing their next seven shots in a row and not scoring again until a Bjelica layup with three seconds to go and the game out of reach. Ladies and gentleman, that’s how a young team loses its shot at the playoffs. To get there now isn’t impossible would require a flawless run from the Wolves plus the simultaneous choking of Denver and Portland.
This and That
- KAT posted the monster numbers, but Ricky Rubio was the Wolves’ star in this game. He continues to prove why he shouldn’t be traded, putting up his third 20-point scoring effort on the season to go with eight assists. The rebounding we’ve come to expect from Spanish Shaggy wasn’t there tonight, but he was confident with his jump shot and even tried to (emphasis: tried to) finish around the hoop a few times.
- Back to KAT: the man was unstoppable last night. Milwaukee threw every defender they could think of at the big guy, but it didn’t make a difference. 35 points, 14 rebounds, two blocks, 3-5 from three. Why does it feel like the Wolves always lose when KAT puts up these ridiculous statlines?
- Similar to the Golden State game, Wiggins started out slow, but this time couldn’t flip the switch. The 11 points he scored on 3-13 shooting mark his lowest scoring output since January 3rd, when he hung eight whole points on Philly. He played some good defense, especially on the Greek Freak, who they actually contained quite well all night, and would have had a couple assists if any of his teammates could knock down a shot, but still, not an inspiring game from Air Canada.
- Shabazz played 16 minutes tonight. Though he was wholly forgettable in the time he was out there, for a team as starved of shooting and offensive production as Minnesota was, the decision to keep him on the bench was… questionable. The Wolves are have a 4-2 record in the month of March. Shabazz has played less than 20 minutes in both the losses and over 24 minutes in all four of the wins. That doesn’t strike me as a coincidence.
- Crunchtime minutes for Brandon Rush and Bjelica tonight, for some unknown reason. Neither were having a particularly good game, in fact at one point, after missing a wide open point blank layup, Bjelica hung his head and looked like a guy who never wanted to play basketball again. In a name, he looked like Andrea Bargnani. Bjelly did have a very nice open-court block on Greg Monroe running the floor, but that was more confusing than impressive. Thibs rotations continue to astound.
The best part about this game is how it’s over now and we can all move on. The Wizards, Celtics and Heat are up next, and all are winnable but none will be easy. This week will tell us if we’re going to the playoffs or should start warming up Tankathon. Onwards!