If you’re like me — a Wisconsin native who happened to up and cross borders to reside a state westward — Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks games have been a dream. Outside of one playoff appearance in 2017-2018, the Wolves have been the next best thing to irrelevant both nationally and locally for literally over a decade. My heart goes out to Wolves fans, but it means I get awesome seats when the Bucks make their annual visit for pennies on the dollar. Instead of taking in tonight’s action courtside at the Target Center, though, it’s Minnesota making the trek to Milwaukee as they attempt to get The Reboot, Part Four off the ground against a Bucks team finding success in spite of the early roadblocks in their way.
Where We’re At
It’s early, but the Bucks already have a little “never say die” to their DNA this season. With over a third of their roster unavailable (and it’s an upper third of the roster, to be clear), the Bucks, led primarily by Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, hung tough on the road to top the playoff-hopeful Indiana Pacers, 119-109. Giannis led all scorers with 30 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 assists and, critically, both he and the team did a rock solid job keeping Indiana’s big man duo of Damontas Sabonis/Myles Turner mostly grounded for a combined 26 points; to be fair, Indiana also didn’t seem particularly interested in attempting to take advantage of Milwaukee’s 6’6” chaos engine center Thanasis Antetokounmpo. Oh, and Jordan Nwora has looked like a man on a mission to prove that he too can do stuff other than shoot the lights out. Frank, take it away:
Jordan Nwora has 7 assists and 2 TOs in 97 minutes so far this year. Last season: 7 assists and 24 turnovers in 274 minutes. Scoring will always be his go-to skill, but his improved decision-making and defensive effort have stood out the most over the first week of the season.— Frank Madden (@fmaddenNBA) October 26, 2021
For the Wolves and second-year coach Chris Finch it’s a balancing act between high-flying sophomore Anthony Edwards and the play style of franchise anchor Karl Anthony-Towns. With very limited samples to work from against limited competition, Minnesota currently has the fourth-best defense in the league (97.8 DRTG) and have the sixth-highest 3PAr with 46.2% of attempts coming from beyond the arc (Milwaukee sits at 110.7 and 43.1% for those two metrics). They’ve notched two wins against the hapless Houston Rockets and the nebulous New Orleans Pelicans, and then they went on to lose to those same Pelicans two nights later, 98-107. Otherwise, KAT is his usual offensively dynamic self, D’Angelo Russell is averaging as many assists as he is turnovers, and Patrick Beverly continues to fight dudes for no apparent reason.
Jonas Valanciunas gathered 23 rebounds against the Wolves on Monday. 23. Lord.
Milwaukee injuries: Bobby Portis PROBABLE (hamstring), Semi Ojeleye PROBABLE (calf), Jrue Holiday OUT (ankle), Brook Lopez OUT (back), Donte DiVincenzo OUT (ankle)
Minnesota injures: None.
Player to Watch
I already nominated Bobby Portis as my pick if he debuted against Indiana, but was denied validation by a last-minute scratch. Now that his status has been pushed up to probable, I’m going to will his playing into existence, even if it is only for 15 or so minutes. We won’t necessarily be looking to see him flash new defensive instincts or even some newer component to his offensive repertoire; instead, I’ll want to keep an eye on how he meshes in a rotation thrown a bit out of whack by injury. If minutes are shared with the likes of Nwora, will they split usage at an even 50/50? Can he get a good start on sustaining his scorching three ball of a year ago? He quickly became part of the heart and soul of this squad, so where does he go with more secure footing?
For Minnesota, the easy option is Karl Anthony-Towns, but he’ll get the nod here in continuation of opposing big men coming up against undersized Bucks lineups. If he decides to bomb away from three, Milwaukee will live with that. If he decides to force the issue inside? Might be a long night.
Game 5: Against Minnesota, Milwaukee will...
This poll is closed
Win big (10 or more points)
Win close (9 or fewer points)
Lose close (9 or fewer points)
Lose big (10 or more points)