MILWAUKEE – The message, at halftime, was something like this: Don’t let it happen again.
The Timberwolves were winning against the lowly Bucks on the road Saturday night, but Milwaukee was getting too many easy baskets and points in the paint. This was feeling a bit too much like last week’s game against the Lakers. Or the week before in Boston, when the Wolves had followed an impressive win with a listless loss.
Not to worry.
With Kevin Love leading the way, the Wolves scored the first 14 points of the third quarter and built their lead to as much as 31 late in the quarter at Bradley Center. That was enough to withstand some shoddy play by the bench to start the fourth quarter. The result was a 117-95 victory that ended a three-game road losing streak and put the Wolves (15-15) back at .500 with five of their next six games at home.
“We haven’t played great in the second night of back-to-backs,” said Love, who scored 33 points with 15 rebounds. He made four of six three-pointers and had six assists. It was his 10th consecutive game with 25 or more points, most in the league this season, and his fifth game with at least 30 points and 15 rebounds.
The Wolves, who won Friday against Washington, have won two in a row, sweeping both ends of a back-to-back for only the second time in eight tries this season. Love and center Nikola Pekovic (19 points, 11 rebounds) took advantage of a Bucks lineup missing 6-11 John Henson. Kevin Martin added 20 points and Corey Brewer had 12.
And if the Wolves reserves started the fourth quarter shooting 1-for-14, allowing the Bucks to climb back to within 14 points late in the game? Well, nobody’s perfect.
“No, it was a good win,” said Adelman, who was forced to put his starters back into the game late to stem the tide. “If nothing else, our guys learned a lesson. The game’s never over.”
It pretty much was, though, after the Wolves’ 39-point third quarter. Up 64-55 at halftime, the Wolves came out stronger on defense, determined to force the Bucks to shoot jumpers and execute in the half court. The result was a 14-0 run to start the quarter and push the lead to 23. The Bucks, who shot 58.8 percent and had 24 points in the paint in the first half, shot only 7-for-23 in the third, which ended with them down by 27. Love had 15 in the quarter, Martin nine and Pekovic seven.
Even a mini-meltdown by the Wolves bench wasn’t enough to change the course of the game.
“I was mad,” guard J.J. Barea said of the second unit, which had been playing well of late and during the second quarter Saturday. “I would have loved to have stayed in there and finished it. But it happens.”
And the Wolves now have only their fourth winning streak of the season, heading into a stretch filled with home games. Could a streak be in the making?
“We go home now, but we have to play well there,” Adelman said. “Dallas [Monday’s opponent] is a very good team. New Orleans [Wednesday] is playing well, and then we have Oklahoma City [Jan. 4]. But if we play well, we can win.”
• Love took a knee to his thigh on a fast break in the third quarter. It was a little stiff after the game, he said, but he didn’t think it would be anything serious.
• It was a kind of homecoming for two players tonight. For Luc Mbah a Moute, it was his first game with the Wolves against the Bucks, the team he played with for the first five years of his career. And for Nate Wolters, the St. Cloud Tech High School grad who played at South Dakota State, it was his first game against the Wolves, the team he grew up watching.