Love's 31 points, 20 boards not enough
It's far too early to bestow star status on Milwaukee Bucks rookie Jon Leuer.
He's not off to a bad start, though.
The second-round pick out of Wisconsin converted a three-point play with 1:17 left, helping the Bucks hold off the Minnesota Timberwolves for a 98-95 victory in their home opener Tuesday night.
Leuer was cheered loudly in pregame introductions, and it only got better from there.
"That's the Badger love, I guess, a little bit," Leuer said. "They were great fans for me my four years at Wisconsin, so I'm glad I get to keep playing for them."
Leuer finished the game with 14 points on 5 for 7 shooting and had eight rebounds. Bucks center Andrew Bogut joked that he might start losing some minutes.
"Jon was great," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "I probably should have played him more last night. He's earned his minutes out there."
Kevin Love had 31 points and 20 rebounds, repeatedly finding his way to the free throw line for the Timberwolves.
"We just dug ourselves a hole we shouldn't have been in," Love said. "We turned the ball over too much and they made some shots."
Minnesota was without coach Rick Adelman, who was attending funeral services for his mother-in-law. Assistant Terry Porter, a former head coach in Milwaukee, filled in.
The Timberwolves were sloppy on offense at times, with 25 turnovers.
"We tried to do some things, go for the home-run passes a couple of times," Porter said. "We just didn't do a good enough job offensively executing our set."
Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio had six points, four assists, three turnovers and three steals in 27-plus minutes.
"We were 20 down, so we started playing harder and trying to control the game," Rubio said. "And we did, but it was too late."
Andrew Bogut fouled out with 2:08 left, sending Love to the line. He hit one of two free throws to cut the lead to four.
After a miss by Jennings, Beasley hit a jumper to cut the lead to two with 1:42 left.
On a chaotic possession for the Bucks, Leuer took a pass from Jennings and went up strong to the basket.
The ball went in as Leuer was fouled, and the second-round pick out of Wisconsin hit the free throw to complete the three-point play and put the Bucks up 97-92 with 1:17 left.
"It's good to have not only a rookie, but a center who can back me up and we don't lose too much," Bogut said. "He shoots the ball very well, he's very efficient offensively. Defensively, he's always in the right spots."
Free throws helped the Timberwolves cut the lead to 98-95, and they had the ball with 7.2 seconds left. But Love missed a 3-point attempt.
Milwaukee had a 20-point lead with just under seven minutes left in the third quarter but went cold from there, and it began to look as if they might blow the lead - just like they did in Monday night's season opener at Charlotte.
"We know we need to play better than that," Skiles said.
The undermanned Bucks won despite a huge night from Love.
The Timberwolves' big man made a living at the free throw line against a depleted Bucks defense in the first quarter, drawing whistle after whistle and forcing Skiles to keep rotating through frontcourt players getting in foul trouble.
Love shot 15 free throws in the first quarter alone, hitting 13 - and drawing the ire of Skiles, who was called for a technical foul with 1:22 left in the quarter after yet another call went Love's way.
"He's a monster, definitely," Leuer said. "But we contained him enough the second half."
Bogut said he was surprised to see Love draw so many calls.
"Yeah, definitely," Bogut said. "Without getting a fine here, it was tough. It was one of those games where nothing went our way."
The Bucks came into Tuesday's game short-handed in the frontcourt and expecting a handful from the Timberwolves.
Gooden was suspended for Tuesday night's game after committing a flagrant foul in the Bucks' season-opening loss at Charlotte on Monday night.
Beyond that, Bucks defensive stopper Luc Richard Mbah a Moute remained sidelined by tendinitis in his right knee, while Carlos Delfino (sprained right wrist) and first-round rookie Tobias Harris (dehyrdation) also sat out Tuesday.
Notes: Bogut had 15 points and nine rebounds before fouling out. ... The Bucks were 2 for 16 from 3-point range. ... Minnesota outrebounded Milwaukee 54-45.