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Bucks vs. Timberwolves Final Score: Giannis Antetokounmpo nearly triple-doubles, Khris Middleton heats up in 116-101 victory

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Minnesota was able to make it close for a moment in the fourth quarter, but the Bucks big three was just too much to handle.

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Wiggins vs. Parker. Antetokounmpo vs. Towns. Smith vs. O'Bryant?

The first 12 minutes of Friday night's game made it seem like the young prospects of the Timberwolves and Bucks would exchange baskets for 48 minutes in a delightfully fast, back-and-forth matchup. Unfortunately for Minnesota, that only held up for the first 24 minutes. The Bucks opened up a 25 point lead midway through the third quarter and never really saw any danger the rest of the way, eventually closing out Minnesota 116-101. Giannis Antetokounmpo dominated the tempo of the game with another sensational near-triple-double, finishing with 27 points, career-high 12 assists, nine rebounds, three steals and two blocks, while Khris Middleton stayed hot with a career-best eight three pointers en route to 32 points on 16 shots.

The first quarter was all about two players: the Bucks' Antetokounmpo and the Wolves' Karl-Anthony Towns. The 2015 #1 overall pick put together an incredible first quarter, scoring 15 points in the game's first seven minutes and adding two assists. He finished his first stint a perfect seven-for-seven from the field, including making his only three point attempt. On the other side, Antetokounmpo packed the stat sheet with eight points, six assists, and four rebounds, but the Bucks still trailed 35-29 after a defense-optional first period.

The Wolves continued to take it to the Bucks to start the second quarter, increasing their lead to 49-39 with 5:26 left in the second quarter. But from that point forward it was all Bucks, as Milwaukee they rattled off a 23-7 run to close the half. Khris Middleton went four-for-four from deep as he scored 14 of the Bucks' 23 points during the run, handing Milwaukee a 62-56 lead heading into the half.

Wolves coach Sam Mitchell called a timeout 42 seconds into the second half to cool off the Bucks after two quick Jabari Parker baskets, but it didn't help. The Bucks just rolled from there and continued on a 22-7 run to take an 88-63 lead with five minutes left in the quarter. Both Antetokounmpo and Middleton scored 13 points a piece in the quarter, as Minnesota's defense had no answer for the Bucks' high tempo attack.

For all intents and purposes, the game looked wrapped up as Wiggins and Towns went to the bench with 8:08 left in the third quarter and never returned, but the Wolves' bench unit kept fighting back and cut the Bucks' lead to a vaguely manageable 17 heading into the final quarter. Their comeback continued in the fourth quarter as Kidd rolled with his bench unit and O.J. Mayo for the first seven minutes before eventually bringing back Parker, Antetokounmpo, and Middleton with just over five minutes left and the Bucks' lead down to 10.

Damjan Rudez hit a three just moments after the Bucks' big three entered the game, but Milwaukee quickly rattled off a 12-4 run that finished off the game and allowed them to secure a 116-101 victory. In the closing moments, Antetokounmpo missed out on what would have been his tenth rebound, which would have given him his third career triple-double (all in the last 12 days), but he was forced to "settle" for 27 points, 12 assists, and nine rebounds. Middleton was also fantastic on the night with 32 points on 11-of-16 shooting, including 8-of-9 three point shooting.

The Bucks will be back in action on Sunday afternoon as they host the Oklahoma City Thunder. Tipoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. CST.

Thoughts:

  • The Bucks' first points came on a Parker corner three -- his second of the season (and this week).
  • For someone who has praised the the defense of Ricky Rubio, the first five minutes of the game were very awkward. Sam Mitchell curiously opted to use Rubio against Antetokounmpo early on, but he just didn't seem to have any answer for Antetokounmpo's size and length. Giannis carved up the Wolves' defense and put up six assists in the game's first six minutes with Rubio serving as his primary defender.
  • Tyler Ennis played tonight. This seemed necessary to type because you probably would have had no idea unless I told you in this recap. In all seriousness though, there were times where he didn't even function as the Bucks' point guard while he was in the game.
  • It is startling how much better Antetokounmpo has gotten in the post in just a single season. He isn't just stronger than he was last season, he's much more patient and in control. Rather than putting his shoulder down in an attempt to blow by people, he's using his quickness to make a number of pivots that give him more and more space to get a good look.
  • The Bucks are so much fun to watch in transition, and the Timberwolves gave them so many opportunities to get out and run, with 26 turnovers for the game and 20 turnovers by the time the starters came out at the end of the third quarter.
  • Towns and Andrew Wiggins went out of the game with 8:08 left in the third quarter. And they never returned. And with that, there were roughly 13 minutes of garbage time in Friday night's game with the Timberwolves starters not seeing much of the second half of third quarter and the Bucks starters not seeing the start of the fourth quarter.
  • I am a bit of a fastbreak snob. I enjoy fastbreaks that feature good lanes, spacing, and pacing. One of my most favorite things to see on a fastbreak is an overlapping run, which you have likely seen on a soccer field. (Yeah, soccer field. Not football pitch. I'm American.) It can be especially disorientating to defenders because two offensive players are essentially occupying the same space and could go in any direction at any time. Parker and Antetokounmpo have started to employ the tactic more often lately and it resulted in a beauty tonight.
  • A number of people questioned why the Bucks would play a lineup without Middleton, Antetokounmpo, and Parker for so long in the fourth quarter. One would assume much of the reason was that they're playing three games in four days and the next two are against the Thunder and Bulls.
  • As frustrating as it might have been to see the Bucks let the Wolves back in the game, it was just as exciting to see the starters come back in the game and take care of business to close out the game.
  • Parker hit his first two jump shots tonight, though he then proceeded to miss six straight on a night where he hit just 7/18 overall. It might rank as his worst game since the all-star break, but when all was said and done he still managed 16 points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block. He had a bit of a scare in the third quarter when he came up lame after bumping into a defender while crashing the offensive glass, though he stayed in the game. And did we mention he did this?
  • A couple of Jabari's assists came in the sort of high pick-and-rolls that Kidd alluded to pregame, an action that figures to be interesting to watch over the rest of the season. Like Giannis, Jabari has shown good chemistry throwing alley-oops to Miles Plumlee, and he also set up the more terrestrial Monroe off a slipped P&R in the first half.
  • Read this post-game quote from Antetokounmpo and dream the most wonderful dreams.

    "Doing what I'm doing right now, bringing the ball up the floor, no one can give me pressure. Because if they pressure me, I'm just going to go by them. If it's a bigger guy, he's not going to pressure me. If it's a smaller guy, I'm just going to throw the ball ahead and go to the post. So, right now, I'm not going to lie, I don't feel no pressure. I know guys are changing and different guys are guarding me every game, but right now I feel no pressure. I'm just out there playing my game."