2017-18 Season

Bucks 102, Wolves 96: Milwaukee Bucks Wolves Off 5-Game Winning Streak

The Minnesota Timberwolves fell to the Milwaukee Bucks 102-96 Thursday night in the second game of a home-road back-to-back. Their record now stands at 22-14, a 50-win pace.

This one played out much like the Wolves’ victory over the Denver Nuggets the night prior….except for the winning part.

The Wolves started off hot, bolstered by blistering three-point shooting and tenacious defense. Karl-Anthony Towns started 3/3 from (he finished 4-of-8) and Andrew Wiggins picked up where he left off the night prior connecting on his first four attempts (he finished 4-of-6; Wiggins’ season 3FG% now sits at 33.1% after going 9-for-14 over the last two games). The Bucks turned the ball over, both forced and unforced, at an aggressive rate in the first half and Minnesota did a good job of making things difficult for MVP candidate Giannis Antetokoumnpo.

The Wolves boasted an offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions) of 116.7 and defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) of 95.8 at the half, both of which are extremely good. The score was 56-46.

Tyus Jones started in place of the injured Jeff Teague, who is expected to miss the next 2-4 weeks with a grade 1 MCL sprain, and was a team high +16 at the half; he had four of his five steals in the first 24 minutes.

But the train slowly became unsteady in the third quarter before completely coming off the tracks in the fourth. By the midway point of the fourth quarter, it became obvious that the Wolves were experiencing pretty heavy fatigue as the defense became more porous and the offense more stagnant.The Wolves’ defensive rating skyrocketed to 109.9 by the end of the game and the offense once again resorted to the visually nonappealing, oft-scrutinized, (but mostly successful) “hero ball” that carried them the night before.

The Wolves had built a 20-point lead at one point, but a 48-22 run to end the game by the Bucks erased any hope the Wolves had of winning.

Jimmy Butler did his best to lead the Wolves to victory yet again, but was mostly mortal (for once) finishing 6-of-16 from the field and 1-of-6 from three; he finished with 20 points, five rebounds, seven assists, and two steals. In the end, it wasn’t quite enough.

The game against the Bucks was always going to be a difficult one (they’re currently the fifth-seed in the Eastern Conference and have one of the best and most unique players on the planet), but the schedule didn’t give the Wolves any favors. It’s notoriously difficult to win the road portion of home-road back-to-backs in this league and attempting to do so after a slog of a game that went into overtime the night prior only makes things more difficult.

Fatigue, whether the result of chronic and acute minutes load, loss of sleep dues to flights, or a combination, is a completely legitimate and defensible “excuse” for losing a game and that’s what was witnessed here. The Wolves were down their starting point guard, lost Wiggins (rolled ankle) and Jones (pinky dislocation) at key moments during the second half, and simply ran out of gas.

As far as the argument that good teams find ways to these kinds of games, well, by and large, the Wolves have found ways to do just that. It just didn’t happen tonight. And there is a mountain of research that lays out exactly how fatigue impairs player performance during competition. The loss to the Bucks was a bad loss, but nonetheless a completely defensible one.

Towns finished with 22 points, five rebounds, and four assists and Wiggins added 21 points, three rebounds, and an assist. Jones played admirably before dislocating his left pinky in the fourth quarter (I wouldn’t expect him to miss much, if any, time); he finished with six points, four rebounds, five assists, five steals, and only a single turnover in 35 minutes.

The bench struggled tonight, only scoring 15 points. Jamal Crawford was -22 in 26 minutes of play (11 points, 4-of-13 from the field, 0-of-5 from 3) and Gorgui Dieng was -11 in 15 minutes (zero points, eight rebounds). Nemanja Bjelica, Aaron Brooks, and Marcus Georges-Hunt all logged fewer than 10 minutes.

Eric Bledsoe led the way for the Bucks with 26 points, three rebounds, six assists, and five steals and Antetokoumnpo added 22 points, 10 boards, three assists and a flurry of powerful, yet gracefully mesmerizing dunks. Malcolm Brogdon, last year’s Rookie of the Year, only played four minutes in the first half, but was one of the major driving forces in Milwaukee’s comeback in the second half, contributing 13 points, five rebounds, and three assists in 26 minutes of +20 play.

The Wolves are next in action on Sunday afternoon against the Indiana Pacers. Tip is scheduled for 4 pm.

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4 thoughts on “Bucks 102, Wolves 96: Milwaukee Bucks Wolves Off 5-Game Winning Streak

  1. Fatigue played a factor tonight, but the lack of coaching and discipline this team shows in the 4th quarter was on full display. We scored 9 legit points in the 4th quarter w/o the pointless Butler 3 at the end. 9. Our 4th quarter woes are not solved. This team cannot and will not hold a lead this entire season. This is all the more reason why Thibs is such a terrible coach. I don’t think we ran 1 offensive set tonight in the 4th quarter. It was dribble at the top of the key and then Crawford or Butler take a terrible shot. It was horrendous basketball. Run an effing play. Pass the ball. Get it moving. The ball always moves faster than a person.

    Speaking of that, Jimmy was trying to do way too much of that early on in the game. He doesn’t have to make some amazing play everytime. Just run the offense and make the smart play. We need hero Jimmy in the 4th quarter, not 4 minutes into the 1st.

    Jamal Crawford was terrible. If it’s not going in, pass the ball and get someone else open. It’s simple. Wait for an easy shot to come your way. Don’t try to force it.

    Tyus was great tonight. The offense was humming, the ball was moving for 2.75 quarters. Played great D. Did all the little things.

    Love that KAT is a good 3 point shooter, but he spends 70% of the game on the perimeter. That needs to be flip flopped. He’s a good passing big man and shows good instincts down low. Get him down there Thibs!

    Wiggins was stroking it. If he can be consistent from 3, that will be huge for us. If people overplay him on the 3, he can blow right by them. He needs to be working on that shot constantly.

    Just a bad loss when this should’ve been a win. The fact we’re struggling this much against barely .500 teams doesn’t bode well for the future. This team isn’t improving like the Thunder are. We’re in the same boat as them and if we were to play them right now, they’d beat us by 25.

    Fire Thibs and a lot of the things I/we complain about go away. It won’t happen but that’s the core issue of this team.

  2. Also, why the #$&* is Butler playing 43 minutes on the 2nd night of a back to back? Maybe if you sit him a little more, he has more energy at the end of the game.

  3. Hey we’re not THAT good a team, so we are bound to drop one now and again. At least Milwaukee is a quality opponent. Speaking of the Bucks, I like some of their young talent and with a weak east I was wondering why they have not been better. This game suggested two reasons: They aren’t a good three point shooting team and their biggest weapon (Giannis) can be shut down if you don’t give him space to get to the rim. We opened up these weaknesses for a half, but then ran out of gas.

    Speaking of gas, you could see this happening in slow motion. You could just shrug and say, ‘schedule loss’. But the problem is that Thibs did nothing to mitigate what the schedule gave us. He played hero ball Jimmy who’s been taking over in the 4th quarter for us 43 minutes. Jimmy was bound to fall to earth a bit in good circumstances, but asking him to play 43 minutes is almost guaranteeing that he would be able to finish well. This becomes part of a larger issue. See a pattern? We start strong, build a lead, let a team back in the game and have a toss up 4th quarter where we either play with heroics and win or run out of gas and lose. Thanks to Butler (who had a really nifty pass in this one!) we have been pulling a lot of these out. But it’s dancing with the devil, tempting fate. This is sort of an exaggeration of a classic basketball plot. Teams always make a run, and how you respond, how well you knock them down when they are making that run so they can’t get back into the game almost defines how good a team you are. Are we having trouble keeping leads and letting teams back in when they are down. Is this due to fatigue or strategy, particularly how we go about playing the 4th quarter? It’s an open question. I suspect it’s a deadly mix of both. In this game the arrow points more to fatigue, but going so iso and just expecting Jimmy to single handedly win the game for us isn’t a good default point for 4th quarter success…

    As Bluez mentioned, it would be quite easy for KAT to get off some good looks from 3 without spending that much of the game camped out there. He played decent, but could have been feeding on the skinny Bucks on the block. As old school as Thibs seems about almost everything, he lets KAT float out on the perimeter in the most radical way. I get that it’s trendy to let bigs shoot threes, I get that KAT is pretty good at it, I get that we badly need good 3 point shooting. It’s still odd how much of the game our center stands outside of the 3 point line. To say it is getting on my nerves is an understatement.

    That’s Crawford. Feast or famine. And if it’s famine (there will be more and more as he gets older) he doesn’t do much other than take bad shots. Also, the one consistent thing about Wiggins is his inconsistency. So to say things like, ‘If only his three point shooting stays hot THIS time…’ is to miss the point. He’s by definition, so far his whole career, an inconsistent player. The most consistent thing about him is his lack of effort, but he occasionally will show a performance that illustrates what he’d look like if he played hard and with intensity all the time. But it’s always a mirage. That’s not him. He’s not intensely competitive or an effort guy. Within that low level of effort he tends to average, he’s also very inconsistent. He’ll play good D for a bit, then not. He’ll do a few poster dunks, then he won’t dunk for 3 games (he’s fast, springy and 6’8″!). He’ll snag 6 rebounds in a game and then take the next 3 games to get 6. But the most obvious evidence of inconsistency is his shooting. He’s clearly coming out of his slump with a vengeance. But don’t expect it to stick as ‘the real Wiggins’. It’s a game to game thing, and most games his shooting isn’t going to be a major weapon. Some periods he’s hotter, some cooler, but don’t count on it (or much at all from him).

    It’s just one game into ‘life without Teague’ but it played out about how I expected–Tyus did really well and starter isn’t the problem (why was Thibs worried about Tyus’ D in this role? He’s a better defender than Teague). Thibs’ solution was basically, ‘play Tyus a buttload of minutes even though he’s used to like 12 a game, when he’s out play a tiny amount of Brooks, and cover the rest with Crawford as PG.’ As the bench numbers show, this is NOT a winning strategy or even an OK stick-your-finger-in-the-dike strategy. To be fair, because he has Brooks as the 3rd PG, there is no good solution. Crawford isn’t a PG at all and is already playing too many minutes with too much bench scoring responsibility. Brooks is not good. I heard there are some possible backup PG’s floating around unattached…

    Bjelly… Will he get ‘there’ as a player? I’m having my doubts. Not because of lack of talent, but he’s just so easy to throw off his game. I mean, his confidence is so fragile. And he needs to be brimming with it [in his own Eastern Euro way] to function. And any little thing can throw his confidence or feel for the game off totally. This injury and the conditioning issues staying off the foot created would throw any player off some, but he’s worthless because of it, and for how long? And when he gets back on track how long until the next thing throws him off the rails? It’s frustrating.

  4. It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing, but expecting a different result. At about the three minute mark of the third quarter , our team kept running the same play over and over with the same result. We had Andrew playing well again tonight, but it was Jimmy time and of course he never has a bad night. KAT was the biggest big man, but Crawford is always cash money, so let him spend the quarter setting high screens and not posting down low.

    I love our vets, but when does our team look at who they are playing against and start working on mismatches? Last night KAT was bigger than anyone out there, but he is kept outside instead of posting up down low. When will KAT shut up and play ball instead of whining to refs that will make him pay for showing them up? When does BAZ ever play again or Belly start playing like he understands what basketball is? Why does our team not have a decent out of bounds play? These are questions that drive me nuts. Milwaukee is a bad team right now (hear the booing from the fans) that got bailed out by a tired and insanely dumb team last night thinking Superman never fails.

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