for this game

Red-hot Timberwolves top shorthanded Bucks

Jan 27, 2009 - 4:23 AM By J.R. Radcliffe PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

MILWAUKEE (Ticker) -- Life without Michael Redd did not begin smoothly.

Playing in their first game since knowing their leading scorer would be lost for the year with a knee injury, the Milwaukee Bucks fell apart in the third quarter and lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves, 90-83, on Monday.

The Bucks trailed by only four points at halftime but scored just 17 in the third quarter, allowing the Timberwolves to take a 74-60 lead. Milwaukee shot 33 percent in the period and committed six turnovers, and the Timberwolves went on a 17-5 run to take control.

"We were pretty much searching for a lineup all night long that we could really find some intensity with," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "We kind of found it when we had the three point guards out there. We were able to keep it close and creep back in there.

"The type of intensity we need to win a game, we probably had for about 10 minutes out of the 48."

Al Jefferson was his typical self, finishing with 23 points and 10 rebounds to lead Minnesota (16-27), making two critical plays down the stretch to ward off rallying Milwaukee (22-26).

He rounded up a loose ball on a near-turnover and converted a layup at the 3:45 mark to pad Minnesota's lead, and his kick out to Ryan Gomes for a crucial 3-pointer all but sealed the victory.

"For me, they're the worst (kind of) team to play," Jefferson said of the Bucks, also missing center Andrew Bogut for the seventh straight game with back spasms. "If you're missing some key guys, other guys are going to want to step up and show coach they can play.

"So they're the worst team to play, they're the ones you really have to come out and jump on and get their confidence early."

It was the fourth time the Bucks were without the tandem this season. Bogut's return was hopeful before the week was over, but Redd - the team's leading scorer at 21.2 points per game - tore his ACL and MCL in Saturday's game.

"It was such a freak deal," Bucks point guard Luke Ridnour said. "Mike has been playing so well and is such a big part of the team. We can't dwell on it, and we have to move on. There are a lot of games left, so we have to make the most of it."

The Bucks have not won consecutive games since December 20 and 23.

Mike Miller added 10 rebounds off the bench and also hit a key 3-pointer to keep the Timberwolves in charge in the fourth quarter, and Gomes added a season-high 22 points.

The Bucks closed within five points on three occasions down the stretch and very nearly had a chance to creep closer on a near-turnover that Ridnour tried to save from heading out of bounds under the Minnesota basket. The ball finished in the hands of Jefferson, who cut to the basket for a layup.

"That was a big possession for us," Wolves coach Kevin McHale said. "Al got in there on kind of a broken play. We designed a play for him and didn't run it very crisply."

Gomes hit a three with 1:47 to play off Jefferson's kick that made it 86-78 and gave the Wolves plenty of breathing room.

"(Jefferson) is getting better at reading when the double-team is coming," Gomes said. "Sometimes, he still finds a way to get the ball out or get a good shot at the rim. I thought he waited for the right time, waited for them to come all the way down, he knew the shot clock was winding down."

Ramon Sessions, one player who figured to see a bump in playing time with Redd sidelined, finished with 18 points for the Bucks and a season-high three steals.

The Bucks were 1-of-14 from 3-point range, a stark difference from Minnesota's eight makes from beyond the arc, though a 13-3 run in the fourth allowed the Bucks to at least cling to hope.

"They picked up their defensive intensity, too, and you expect that from a Scott Skiles team," Miller said.

"He's a great coach. We were just able to make a few more shots at the end. If you've been around all year, you see games like that when teams would get runs on us, we'd have a hard time, especially on the road. It's good to see our team (win)."

Milwaukee went 5-9 without Redd earlier this season when he was sidelined with a separate ailment.

Minnesota took a 47-43 lead at halftime, with Jefferson scoring 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Neither team led by more than five points in the half, which featured 17 lead changes. Minnesota never trailed thereafter.