MINNEAPOLIS -- The recovering big men bumped and banged around the basket all night, and a beat-up Andrew Bogut got the better of Al Jefferson.
Bogut gave the defense-first Bucks plenty of muscle at both ends with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Milwaukee used a third-quarter surge to top the worn-down Jefferson and the Minnesota Timberwolves 87-72 on Friday.
Returning to form after a lower back injury cost him half of last season, Bogut was consistently aggressive at taking the ball to the rim and hounding Jefferson in the lane.
"He looks much more like himself. He's moving around well, facing up people," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "He's got a quick first step, is making some nice reads, some nice passes. We're going to him, and he's being productive right now."
That's just the opposite of what's happening with the Timberwolves and their star center. Still trying to find his groove after a knee injury knocked him out last winter, Jefferson went 3 for 12 from the floor, finished with a season-low eight points and left the locker room without meeting reporters.
Coach Kurt Rambis was more upset with the rest of the team for not running the offense right during an especially lethargic effort after halftime. The Wolves were outscored 31-14 in the third quarter after leading 38-33 at the half, and Rambis had a sore throat from yelling at them so much to move the ball around the perimeter.
"There's plenty of opportunities for Al to get the ball on the backside of the offense if we just swing it," Rambis said. "But we can't continue to grind and grind and grind and hold and hold. They're just leaning on Al. They're wearing him out."
Luke Ridnour had 16 points off the bench, offsetting the first bad game for Brandon Jennings, who went 4 for 16 from the field and finished with nine points against his friend and fellow rookie point guard Jonny Flynn. Jennings averaged 22 points over his first three games.
Ridnour had nine points in the fourth quarter and swished a 3-pointer with 6:23 remaining to match Milwaukee's biggest lead, 77-60, and keep Flynn - -who had a career-high 20 points -- from bringing Minnesota back like he did against New Jersey in the season opener.
"Andrew opens it up down there," Ridnour said. "Once a couple guys start hitting shots, confidence goes up."
Missing Michael Redd, the Bucks need Bogut to keep this up. He got help inside from Hakeem Warrick, who had 11 points in the third quarter, and Dan Gadzuric, who also bothered Jefferson with some physical defense. The Bucks had a 36-22 advantage in paint points and outrebounded the Wolves 51-38.
As for Bogut's back?
"It's OK," said the shaggy-haired Aussie and 7-foot former first overall draft pick. "There were some speed bumps along the way, but it's normal. I haven't played basketball since January. ... It's been progressing, but there's still a long way to go."
The Wolves shot 5 for 18 in the second quarter. During the dreadful third, they went 6 for 18. The Bucks didn't lead until the third quarter, but they built their first 17-point lead just 2½ minutes into the fourth.
The Bucks, who've played only one home game, took a good mood and a 2-2 record back to Wisconsin where they'll start a six-game homestand Saturday.
"The guys regrouped at halftime, and you could tell right when the ball was inbounded in the third quarter we were at least going to go for it," Skiles said. "We picked up our level of aggressiveness. It's a big win for us."
After winning their opener, the Wolves have lost five straight. Two straight close ones to the Clippers and Boston seemed to sap their effort. Flynn blamed himself for that second-half lapse, as the point guard.
"We came out stagnant as an offense, and that's a big thing in a system like the triangle," he said. "We have to keep moving. We have to keep the ball moving. We have to keep some type of energy."
Credit the Bucks, too.
"I believe Scott Skiles had something to do with that. I would've loved to hear what he had to say in the locker room," Flynn said.
Redd, expected to miss two weeks, had his original diagnosis of a strained tendon in his left knee affirmed by a doctor, Skiles said. He'll be evaluated at the end of next week. "We're hoping that it's on the short end rather than on the long end, and we'll know a lot more when they look at it again," Skiles said. ... The 14 points in the third for Minnesota were a season low for any quarter.