Kukoc started for Desmond Mason, who was out with the flu, and
turned in season highs in points (nine), rebounds (six), assists
(five) and minutes (33). He pushed his 36-year-old body up and down
the floor just as he did as a rookie 11 seasons ago with the
"Unsung heroes were definitely Toni and Joe Smith tonight,"
It was Kukoc's first start in almost three seasons for the
Bucks, who had lost 10 straight to the Timberwolves since winning
in Minnesota on March 28, 1999.
Latrell Sprewell scored 24 points, including 19 in the first
quarter, and Wally Szczerbiak added 19 for the Timberwolves, who
had won five consecutive games before losing to Sacramento at home
The Timberwolves had more energy and intensity in the first half
and led 56-47, but came out flat in the third quarter before
turning it up late in the fourth.
They might have been counting on the Bucks to fold down the
Milwaukee had been outscored 70-30 in the last quarter of their
past two losses, but the Bucks held on this time thanks to Kukoc,
Smith, Redd and Erick Strickland.
"The stars were in line for us tonight," Milwaukee coach Terry
Porter said after the win snapped a three-game losing streak that
dropped the team 12 games below .500 for the first time this
Milwaukee clamped down on the Timberwolves in the second half,
holding them to a season-low 30 points, including a season-low 11
in the third quarter.
"They took away the momentum, they got the crowd back in the
game," Szczerbiak said. "We just came out with no energy in the
third quarter. I don't know what our problem was."
Kukoc, who missed 23 games with a right hip strain earlier this
season, credited Smith's defense on Kevin Garnett as a key to the
"I think he's the best defender on Kevin that I know in the
league," Kukoc said after Garnett was held to 15 points on
7-for-15 shooting and 13 rebounds.
Smith was Garnett's teammate in Minnesota for two seasons.
"If he doesn't know how to play him, nobody does," Kukoc
Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders agreed.
"Joe was unbelievable, unbelievable offensively, unbelievable
defensively," he said.
Sprewell had just eight points in each of the Timberwolves' last
two games, but he shot 7-of-11 in the first quarter, including four
3-pointers. He played a minute of the second before heading to the
Redd finally figured out how to stop Sprewell, holding him
scoreless in the third while scoring nine points, including the
final six to help the Bucks take a 70-67 lead into the final
Sparked by Redd's effort, the rest of the team stepped up, too,
and Milwaukee erased Minnesota's nine-point halftime lead.
Keith Van Horn's 3-pointer gave the Bucks a 79-69 lead with 7:06
to play and capped a 16-2 run that bridged the end of the third and
But the Timberwolves answered with a 10-2 run that pulled them
to 84-82 on two free throws by Sam Cassell with 1:23 left.
Kukoc connected over Cassell on the baseline on the Bucks' next
possession to push the lead to 86-82.
The Timberwolves got within two twice in the final 50 seconds,
but two free throws each by Smith and Strickland and one by Kukoc
sealed the victory.
The Bucks improved to 16-27. After 43 games last season, they
Van Horn, who sat out Sunday's loss at Cleveland with right
ankle tendinitis, played 15 minutes. He's missed 19 games due to
that injury. ... Minnesota slipped to 7-12 against the Eastern
Conference, including 1-9 on the road. ... Kukoc's last start was
with Atlanta on Feb. 27, 2002, against Seattle. ... Sprewell's five
3-pointers tied his season high, accomplished five times.