It was the bench on display tonight in Sioux Falls, SD as the Timberwolves put together a 98-89 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Leading the way for the Wolves' bench was roster hopeful Othyus Jeffers, who led all Wolves in scoring with 13, and also 6 rebounds.
Possibly the most pleasant surprise for Wolves fans tonight was the effort put in by lottery pick Shabazz Muhammad. After a dismal debut Monday, and a DNP - Coach's Decision last night, Muhammad put together a nice showing in Sioux Falls, scoring 11 points in 20 minutes, shooting 3-6 from the field. At training camp in Mankato, both Rick Adelman and Kevin Love praised Muhammad's ability to get on the offensive glass, and his three boards on that end tonight helped back up those claims. Muhammad didn't take any perimeter jumpers tonight, and instead focused on scoring around the rim and in post up situations. Fellow first round pick Gorgui Dieng had an even better game, compiling 6 and 9 along with 4 blocks and a very nice assist to A.J. Price.
It was a rough 1st quarter for the Wolves' starters -- the only quarter where either Kevin Love or Ricky Rubio saw any action. Neither Love nor Rubio had a spectacular stat line, and they both exited the game with a little over a minute left in the first quarter. From there on out, it was mainly the bench that saw the floor, and from there the turnaround occured, much due to the energy of Jeffers, as well as some good work on the glass as a team.
Another regular starter, Kevin Martin, sat tonight for precautionary reasons after feeling soreness in his achilles. Alexey Shved started in his place, and had his second straight solid night on the floor. He notched two three pointers in three tries, and finished the game with 9 points and 3 assists in 16 minutes. He didn't force anything in the paint, and let the game come to him, resulting in his high shooting percentage, and zero turnovers to boot.
Another notable absence was Derrick Williams, who dressed but didn't play in tonight's game. Part of this could be his minute totals in the first two games, leading the team each of the first two games in that category. Also, for the third straight game, Chris Johnson sat out by way of coach's decision.
To round out the starters, Corey Brewer had his ups and downs, shooting 3-9 from the field, but also hit a couple of three pointers in the corner and came away with 2 steals in the game. Nikola Pekovic played more minutes than any other starter, scoring 10 points on 3-6 shooting.
For the Bucks, it was a homecoming of sorts for former South Dakota State Jackrabbit Nate Wolters, who received by far the biggest applause on the night. He was given the start and played well, scoring 10 points on 3-5 shooting. Jon Henson led all Bucks players in scoring, filling in the starting lineup for injured Ersan Ilyasova. Henson had 16 points in 25 minutes.
The highly intriguing 18-year-old rookie from Greece, Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo, struggled mightily tonight. He finished with 4 points on 1-6 shooting, as well as a whopping 7 turnovers in 28 minutes.
Like last night, the Wolves did a great job at getting to the rim and getting fouled. They got to the line 33 times, and while they would like to improve on their 69.7 percent performance at the stripe, getting there that many times is a step in the right direction. Their spacing seems to be improving every night, and their defense right along with it. In other words, the preseason is doing its job.
All in all, a very good night for Minnesota basketball.