Righting the ship after a four-game losing streak, the Bucks defeated the visiting Timberwolves—who remained without Karl-Anthony Towns but also saw Rudy Gobert scratched late with an illness—to close 2022 by a 123-114 final. Giannis led all scorers with 43, while Anthony Edwards was Minnesota’s high man with 30.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the Bucks began this one cold from deep (2/8 in the opening quarter), missing six consecutive before Bobby Portis sank one late. Still, without Rudy Gobert’s (a late scratch with illness) presence, they found ample success closer to the rim and still shot 50%. With 12 and 11 respectively, Gianns and Portis paced the scoring while the other sat. However, getting burned in transition a couple of times contributed to Minnesota’s 34-33 advantage after one.
Things got worse from distance as Milwaukee missed their first twelve three-point attempts in the second. Both teams barely scored for several minutes before Minnesota embarked on a 15-1 run fueled by free throws, as each team committed ten personals in the frame. Though Joe Ingles mercifully hit one in the closing minutes, the Bucks were an abhorrent 1/14 from behind the arc and turned the ball over eight times—mostly on poor entry passes—in the period and sauntered into the locker room down 61-50.
Something very odd indeed happened in the third... the Bucks made three-point shots. I repeat, the Bucks made three-point shots. Ingles stood out in particular, but more on him later. Closing the quarter on a 26-13 run fueled by those makes, plus getting on the break after Minnesota turnovers, netted Milwaukee the lead with just over three minutes left. They found themselves up entering the fourth 89-83, outscoring the T-Wolves 39-22 in those twelve minutes.
The Bucks extended their edge to sixteen as triples continued to fall, but six turnovers in the fourth opened the door back up for the Wolves, who sliced things to five with three minutes to go. Brook Lopez managed to get it back to ten, though, with some huge plays on both ends before exiting with his sixth foul. A bad Jevon Carter pass nearly precipitated disaster as it put Minnesota down six, but they still had to resort to fouling. Even though they had trouble inbounding again, the Bucks controlled the ball and sank their free throws.
Once the calendar hits 2023, the 23-12 Bucks will host the Wizards for two at home, beginning on Sunday.
Giannis joined some truly elite company last night. With another 40-point, 20-rebound effort, this marked the first time that’s been done in consecutive games since Moses Malone in 1982. Factor in the five dimes and it goes back further, as only two men ever accomplished back-to-back 40-20-5 performances: Wilt Chamberlain (though The Stilt achieved this five times in his career) in 1966 and Elgin Baylor (once) in 1960. Certainly this was the more efficient of the two 40 pieces, coming on 23 shots as opposed to 39. His shot selection—a major issue in OT on Wednesday—improved a lot, as he took only six attempts outside the restricted area, hitting two. Ironically, he hit his only three early in the second half, sparking the deluge of treys to come. He also headed to the line 21 times, sinking 14
Point Ingles debuted and early returns were good. Down both Jrue Holiday and George Hill due to illness, Milwaukee’s lack of ballhandling gave the Aussie his first true opportunity to direct the offense for extended stretches. Carter got the start in the backcourt, but really struggled to initiate things with his excessive dribbling. Mike Budenholzer handed Jingles the keys for some stretches in the first half, but it was in the late third quarter that he came alive. Moving Carter off the ball, inserting A.J. Green alongside him in the backcourt, and having Ingles bring the ball up was improbably a recipe for success. Joined by Giannis and Lopez in the frontcourt, these Ingles-led lineups turned a seven-point deficit into a six-point lead by fourth quarter. It wasn’t just his facilitation either, as his three-point shooting carried into the final stanza when the Bucks began on a 16-6 run. That success meant he also played in crunch time. His final line was a 14-point, 10-assist double-double in nearly 25 minutes, all setting new highs since his return from ACL surgery. You really could see the vision in adding him to the roster, as the offense purred along quite well under his leadership. He even defended Edwards for stretches and held his own.
Brook Lopez dealt with foul trouble all night, but made hay without having to contend with Gobert. Playing with five personals, his two buckets and block in the final two minutes went a long way, though he fouled out with 47 seconds left. This was a pretty over-officiated game—evidenced by the combined 67 free-throw attempts (Minnesota had 34)—and there were plenty of calls missed among uber-physical action, so Bud had to hold Lopez out for long stretches of the second after picking up his third whistle not even two minutes in. When he got back out there in the second half, his work in the paint and rim protection factored heavily in the Bucks wrestling control of the game.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- Today in rookies: MarJon Beauchamp was the first man off the Bucks bench alongside Bobby Portis nearly five minutes into the game. A.J. Green got some rare first-quarter minutes too, subbing in at the 2:10 mark. The first-round pick made little impact, unable to defend without fouling (three in 15 minutes) but had a nice baseline move and found his fellow rookie for three in the second half. Green had his issues with the whistle too (four in 22 minutes) and was targeted on defense, but buried a couple threes in that big sequence from the third into fourth quarters, and looked solid within the offense’s flow.
- While Milwaukee addressed its shooting slump in a big way, the other problem that’s been plaguing them still needs work: turnovers. They accrued 21 on the evening, mostly due to errant passes: 13 of them were live ball turnovers, classified as bad passes in the official box score. Ingles had a few through his otherwise effective minutes. Entry passes into the post continue to be a problem, often too high unless Lopez or Giannis is receiving them.
- Carter was a bit brutal in the first half, but after he transitioned into an off-ball role he settled in nicely, scoring all ten of his points after half while not missing a shot. He thwarted Jaylen Nowell with a sensational chasedown block for one of the game’s best highlights too:
- Bobby Portis was one of the Bucks’ only sources of scoring in the first half on his way to a 22-point, 14-rebound (eight offensive) line, his twentieth double-double in 35 games. That ranks fourth in th league behind Nikola Jokic, Domas Sabonis, and Giannis.
- After laying a goose egg in Chicago, Pat Connaughton struggled mightily again missing all six of his threes. He had a nice drive off a pump fake early that paid off at the rim just after half, and I thought maybe he’d look to cut more. However, Bud lifted him midway through the third and he did not return, as the Carter/Green backcourt found a nice groove.
- Milwaukee outrebounded Minnesota 68-36. No, that’s not a typo. On the offensive glass, their margin was 20-7, resulting in a massively important 26 second-chance points. The Wolves really missed Gobert.
- Just to reiterate, the Bucks shot 3/22 from downtown in the first half before going 11/17 in the second. Quite a swing.
- With four minutes left, Lopez fouled Edwards hard under the rim and the Wolves star remained down on the court for several minutes, not moving. After getting up and being helped to the bench by two trainers with his hands on his tailbone, he surprisingly remained in the game to take his free throws and played the rest of the evening. The Fiserv Forum crowd applauded him after getting up, but in what I found perplexing (to put it nicely), they booed him at every subsequent touch. Maybe he was milking it a bit, or at least taking a lot of time, but that’s a bad look for the fans in attendance if you ask me.
- This post closes out 2022 here at Brew Hoop and my second year on the staff. Thank you to all our readers and commenters for continuing to follow along with us, and here’s to a big 2023 for the Bucks. Happy New Year!