Anthony Edwards scored a team-high 26 points, while four more Wolves scored at least 16 points to help Minnesota spoil Doc Rivers’ home debut in Milwaukee.
After a whirlwind of a week that consisted of a massive lead lost on Tuesday and a new face coming to Minnesota in Monte Morris, the border battle raged on between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night.
This was a matchup of two teams that are opposite, yet similar. Milwaukee has been a great offensive team this season but has left a lot to be desired on the defensive end of the floor — they rank fourth on offense and 18th on defense. The Wolves, as we know, are phenomenal on the defensive end of the floor — they rank 19th on offense and first on defense. Polar opposites and yet both find themselves at the top of their respective conferences.
How they are similar is that both have had a recent knack to blow leads. Since Doc Rivers took over, Milwaukee was 1-4 with him at the helm entering Thursday, with multiple blown leads in their losses. The Timberwolves have made it a bad habit of also coughing up large leads in their most recent stretch of play as well. An interesting juxtaposition of two great teams that have achieved their wins in very different ways ends in a fun contest to watch, with Minnesota coming away on top.
The game started with Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns leading the charge early with the team’s first nine points of the game in a back-and-forth affair. The Bucks started hot from downtown, making four of their first six — including two apiece from Brook Lopez and Jae Crowder. But Minnesota matched that output with the help of an 11-3 run in the middle of the quarter. Bobby Portis provided a spark off the bench for the Bucks, scoring six points in the quarter. However, a solid showing in the first frame for the Wolves allowed them to maintain a 30-26 lead… and we even got an early game Josh Minott sighting to close the frame!
In the second period, the first six minutes of the quarter saw each team trade baskets and Rudy Gobert making some nice moves around the rim to finish possessions. After this stretch that kept the game close, the Wolves went on an 8-0 run to get the lead up 52-39 with four minutes left in the quarter. The lead capped out at 14 for the Minnesota in the second, but Milwaukee was able to cut it down to 10 for a 63-53 Wolves halftime lead with a late Giannis Antetokounmpo flurry. Jae Crowder lead the way at halftime for Milwaukee with 16 points (already a season high for him), while Edwards had 17 to pace the Timberwolves. Minnesota also got a boost off the bench from Kyle Anderson who had eight points, three assists and three rebounds.
As the second half started there was one question on everyone’s mind: can this lead sustain? The answer was yes as the Wolves slowly but surely raised their lead to 15 in the first few minutes with some big Mike Conley triples and a Jaden McDaniels double-block on old friend Malik Beasley. Some stellar defense and good offense allows the Wolves to strengthen their lead up to 20 points with an emphatic Gobert slam and flex. During the middle part of the quarter the Wolves offense took off, they went on a 20-5 run to continue increasing their lead up to a game-high 27 points — 91-64 with three and a half minutes left in the third. A clinical and precise third quarter allowed the lead to grow from 10 to 27. They outscored the Bucks 39-22 in the frame.
While the Bucks put up a bit of a fight in the fourth (most notably with a hot streak from AJ Green) the Wolves did their work early and held on to their large lead to close the win out 129-105.
Rudy Gobert’s Consistent Dominance
One of the reasons that I and many others love Rudy Gobert is that he brings the intensity every single night. He is consistently controlling the paint defensively and setting backbreaking screens to free his teammates up to go along with his offensive rebounds and powerful slams. This game was no different for the Frenchman. He scored 16 points on 8/9 shooting to go along with his 11 rebounds and four assists. You could tell that he was dominating the paint defensively and was locked in the entire night. With the focus waning on occasion for this Wolves team especially as the games come to a close, it was nice to see him take that to heart. While he is one of the most consistent Wolves players, he took it to new heights and made sure that this one was over with no chance of a comeback.
His highlight, while usually a block or even a defensive possession, was a powerful dunk followed by a big flex. It got me up out of my chair and was one of many exclamations points on the night.
Third Quarter Buries the Bucks
While ending the game in the third quarter was a trend for the Wolves early in the season, it seems that trend has been missing especially along this slightly bumpy stretch. The Wolves took a 10 point lead into the locker room at halftime which is great but definitely made Minnesota fans wary given their recent struggles in closing out games. They did the exact opposite in this one.
Using the pick-and-roll game, Minnesota generated good look after good look. They converted on this great offense to the tune of 39 points in the third quarter alone. This raised their lead from 10 to 27 and effectively ended the game at this point. Conley was hitting threes (he was 6/7 from downtown on the evening) and emphatic slam after emphatic slam proved that this game would be in fact different than the most recent ones. The Bucks waved the white flag early in the fourth quarter and Minnesota cruised to victory because of this barrage in the third.
The Wolves dished out 19 assists while only turning it over one time across the second and third quarters, which was crucial to them scoring 72 points in that span.
Reid and Anderson Holding Down the Bench
With the trade deadline buzzer sounding at 2 PM today and Kyle Anderson’s name being thrown around because of his expiring contract and up and down performance this season, it was awesome to see him have a game we got so accustomed to seeing during the 2022-23 campaign. Slow-Mo had eight points on 3/3 shooting, five, rebounds and six assists. He was efficient and provided a lot on the defensive end of the floor with the Timberwolves building a wall against Giannis.
When Jaden McDaniels got into foul trouble Anderson was the one that picked up the slack. If you were wondering why Minnesota decided to keep him instead of trading him, the defensive ability to pick up Jaden’s slack when he gets in foul trouble is exactly the reason. Antetokounmpo is a tough matchup for anyone but without Anderson that assignment would have been much tougher. He helped the Timberwolves hold Giannis to just 17 points on 14 shots, the fourth-fewest points the Greek Freak has put up this season.
On top of this, Naz Reid had a Naz Reid game. He scored 17 points to go along with his four rebounds and provided that scoring spark off the bench like he always does. When he saw Gobert’s big dunk in the third quarter he decided to match that energy and have one of his own. Overall, a great bench night that will only get stronger with the addition of Monte Morris.
The Wolves will return to Minneapolis on Thursday night before traveling to Los Angeles on Sunday for a Monday night matchup with Kawhi Leonard and the red hot Clippers. The few days of practice should serve as a good opportunity for new Timberwolf Monte Morris to get up to speed with his new squad.
Keep an eye out for some buyout news coming this weekend as well.