Bucks 102, Wolves 95: The Bucks (Don’t) Stop Here

(Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Minnesota Timberwolves fell to the Milwaukee Bucks Saturday night by the score of 102-95. After fighting tooth and nail the night prior against the Golden State Warriors (catch Andy’s killer recap here), the Wolves came out flat and were never really able to perk up. Save for Karl-Anthony Towns and Ricky Rubio, the team appeared to be out of gas, especially Andrew Wiggins, who was held to 11 points on 3/13 shooting.

The Wolves struggled to get key stops for most the game, allowing the Bucks to score 16 second chance points. John Henson and Greg Monroe came up big on the glass for Milwaukee, grabbing seven of the team’s 11 offensive boards. When the Wolves finally did start getting stops towards the end of the game, they were unable to capitalize; they scored only nine points over the final five minutes and didn’t score at all from the 2:48 mark until Nemanja Bjelica was provided with a wide-open lane with three seconds left.

It was a team effort from the Bucks as every player who logged greater than five minutes scored in double-figures, save for veteran Jason Terry who was held to five. Matthew Dellavedova and Tony Snell combined to make all eight of Milwaukee’s threes and were arguably the biggest thorns in the Wolves’ side. “[They] hurt us with the three, which is what they do well,” Tom Thibodeau said after the game. “We didn’t close out as well as we needed too [for] both guys.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo (I spelled that without looking) tallied a line of 18 points, four rebounds, seven assists, and two blocks and Kris Middleton added 11 points, eight rebounds, and four assists. The Bucks’ bench outscored the Wolves’ 38-14 and held them to 7/23 (30.4%) from the field.

Ricky Rubio continued his strong play, scoring 22 points and adding eight assists. Over the last five games (against the Utah Jazz, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, and Milwaukee Bucks), Rubio is averaging 15.2 points, 10.4 assists, and 5.8 rebounds and has a plus/minus of +43; he’s been an absolute revelation as of late. Speaking of revelations…

Karl-Anthony Towns continued his monster play Saturday night posting a line of 35 points (on 21 shots; 3/5 from deep), 14 rebounds (four offensive), one assist, one steal, and two blocks; Towns broke the team record, previously set by Wiggins last week, for consecutive games of 20+ points scored, which now stands at 20.

Towns has been on a tear over the last 25 games, averaging 27.9 points, 12.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.3 blocks per game on 59.5% shooting from the field and 44.8% (2.7 attempts) from 3. His defense has improved since the beginning of the season; his recognition has improved which has, in turn, improved his rim protection. He still has a ton to grow on the defensive end, but his recent improvements in conjunction with his other-worldly play on offense should maybe raise the question as to if Towns should be considered for All-NBA recognition this season.

Headed into the game against the Bucks, Towns ranked first in PER, estimated wins added, and offensive RPM, second in RPM wins, third in usage rate and points per game, ninth in RPM, 12th in defensive rebound rate, and 15th in overall rebound rate among qualified centers, according to ESPN. It may take the Wolves getting into, or, at the very least, making a significant push for, the playoffs for him to get serious consideration, but Towns is beginning to put together a pretty solid résumé.

In the end, the effort put forth by Rubio and Towns wasn’t enough and the Bucks came away with the victory, their sixth in a row. After the game, a visibly upset Tom Thibodeau didn’t have many positives (or much at all) to speak about. “We didn’t play well,” said Thibodeau. “I knew coming in that we were going to have to be at our best. We got off to a slow start, we didn’t close the [first] half well, we didn’t start the fourth quarter well, and that created a problem.”

The Wolves have an off-day Sunday before beginning a stretch of five games against the Washington Wizards, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, New Orleans Pelicans, and the San Antonio Spurs.

Notes:

  • I mentioned it earlier in the recap, but Andrew Wiggins looked pretty tired tonight. Many of his shots were left short and he didn’t have the speed he normally does to get past his defender. Much of that may be due to Kris Middleton being very good at defense, however. Regardless, Wiggins and the rest of the team will get a much-needed day off Sunday, so hopefully they are able to recharge.
  • To give a sense of how Thibs was feeling after the game: a reporter asked Thibs about Nemanja Bjelica’s recent play, which has been very solid as of late, and he answered bluntly, “I didn’t think he played well tonight, but overall he’s been playing very well. Yep.”

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3 Responsesso far.

  1. pyrrol says:

    I’m a bit backlogged on these so I only have a few quick points…

    Had a bad feeling about this game after the GS high. One thing this game had in common with that one was tough officiating. It’s funny to watch how spoiled GS is after a loss—they actually thought the refs were out to get them despite benefiting from a ton of no calls that should have been fouls on them and being able to set moving screens on almost every play. For some reason, the officiating seemed really in favor of Milwaukee as well. So far this season, it seems like we’ve run into biased/ridiculous officiating rarely, but this is two games in a row where we had two opponents–the other team and the refs.

    Second, here’s why I was such a Debbie Downer during Wiggins’ hot 20 a game streak (now appropriately broken by Towns). You can’t be the next Wolves chosen one and have games like this. Tired, beat up, not in the mood, not motivated by a personal slight, whatever, you just have to show up more than this. Some games Towns and others can carry the main load. Rubio really stepped his scoring up in limited minutes in this one, for instance. But you have to give us more than this, or losing is the likely result. And that’s why I’m not riding high on the Wiggins bandwagon just yet. He just had two bad games in a row when we needed him. The GS game was ‘good enough’ but this performance was not enough and he has to get more consistent even if he is somehow more tired than all the other players on the team for no known reason.

    Lastly, for some reason when Rubio was in foul trouble (at least 2 of the calls were garbage) Thibs had Dunn go in at PG without Jones for extended periods. Dunn didn’t look that bad, and he’s been way better lately. But one wonders why Thibs went so Dunn heavy in this one at PG, and to what ends. We were just off in this game and perhaps it wasn’t in the cards, but I wonder if it would have been closer if Thibs had just gone with his normal mostly Jones at backup PG thing. I was not a fan of this decision if for no other reason than because we’ve been playing so well lately and there was not a reason to rock the boat.

  2. Tom says:

    Listening to Thibs, I don’t think he felt that Wiggins should be tired or that the team finished strong. I have to say that although they lost it in the fourth, the groundwork for the loss came in the first as Lucas mentioned. They were sloppy with the ball, no movement and couldn’t get anything going offensively. Milwaukee is a very good team and will give any playoff team fits in the East. This is probably a game where we missed Zack most, because anyone that hit an open three would have opened up so much for KAT and the rest.

    God love Flip, Shabaz and Giorghi, but everytime I see the Greek Freak, I think of how this team would be so different if Flip would have been brave enough to see what this guy could do. Would Love have wanted to go? Would Zack, Giannis, Love, Gobert and Rubio be a better team than what we have now? Surely, we wouldn’t have Andrew or KAT, but Gobert would complement KLove. Giannis and Zack getting lobs from Rubio.

    Andrew has his bad games against lengthy, quick SF like Kawhi and Giannis. Because he doesn’t have a consistent three, they can keep him corralled and not drive as usual. This is where he needs to learn some tricks to get to the FT line a la Kevin Martin. They also could use an offense play or two that gives Wiggins screens to free him for some easier shots. That turnaround fadeaway is always a sign that he is grasping for straws.

    Thibs must put the cap into play this summer and add players that can push guys like Belly, Tyus and Brandon Rush to the end of the bench. Getting players that let Wiggins drive, KAT manhandle down low and Ricky or maybe Dunn to orchestrate the offense will be the difference between looking like we were tired and pulling out an upset in Milwaukee.

  3. gjk says:

    That’s a game where they needed LaVine’s shooting to bail them out a few times. Rush and Muhammad are regressing to the mean from 3 with the force of one of Bazz’s dunks.

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