Timberwolves-Bucks Preview
January 25, 2009
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The Milwaukee Bucks already have plenty of practice playing without their leading scorer this season. But if they don't improve on their previous stint without Michael Redd, they'll almost certainly miss the playoffs for the third straight season.

One day after learning that Redd will miss the rest of the season with torn knee ligaments, the Bucks will try to move on and win consecutive games for the first time in more than a month when they host the red-hot Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday.

Redd leads Milwaukee with 21.2 points per game, and the veteran guard had been playing his best basketball lately, averaging 24.2 points and shooting 51.2 percent from the field in 2009.

But he landed on teammate Luke Ridnour's foot during Saturday's 106-104 win over Sacramento, tearing both the ACL and MCL in his left knee and ending his season.

Redd also missed 14 games earlier this season with an ankle problem, and the Bucks were just 5-9 without him during a tough stretch of their schedule.

"We did have to play early in the season without him and yes, this is more long term," general manager John Hammond said. "Maybe it does affect the guys from a mental standpoint, but this is professional basketball. These things occur and they're going to happen again. Guys have a responsibility to step up."

Milwaukee (22-25) currently occupies the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, but six teams are within four games of coach Scott Skiles' club as it tries to reach the posteason for the first time since 2005-06.

Making matters worse is that Redd is hardly the only injury problem for the Bucks. Center Andrew Bogut has missed the last six games with back spasms, while Charlie Bell -- the substitute starter the last time Redd was out -- has missed three games with an ankle injury.

A bulk of the scoring load figures to fall to Richard Jefferson and Charlie Villanueva, with Ramon Sessions perhaps sliding into the starting lineup.

"Over half our games have been without two of our main players," Skiles said. "Our guys are hanging in there. It's not always pretty every night, but we're hanging in there."

The Bucks have been staying afloat lately despite an inability to string together wins. They're 8-9 since Christmas Day, but they have not won back-to-back games since a three-game streak from Dec. 19-23. They've followed each of their last eight victories with losses.

Jefferson's free throw broke a late tie and vaulted Milwaukee to a victory against the Kings, but a second straight win won't be easy the way Minnesota is playing.

Although they're almost certain to miss the playoffs for a fifth straight season, the Timberwolves (15-27) have the NBA's best record since New Year's Day, winning nine of 11 to start 2009. They've already beaten the Bucks this month, winning 106-104 on Jan. 10.

Minnesota trailed by as many as 16 in the first quarter on Sunday against Chicago, but coach Kevin McHale's team erased a seven-point deficit in the final four minutes of regulation and beat the Bulls 109-108 in overtime.

"We fought back," center Al Jefferson said. "We didn't give up."

Al Jefferson led the Timberwolves with a season-high 39 points, while emerging rookie Kevin Love added 19 and matched a season high with 15 rebounds off the bench.

While Jefferson continues to lead the team with 22.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per game, Love has shaken off a slow start to average 12.1 points and 10.4 rebounds this month.

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