With Giannis Antetokounmpo an afternoon scratch, one couldn’t expect the Milwaukee Bucks to definitively deliver a victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves, but you would’ve hoped for a slightly better fight than the 119-138 game we got Saturday afternoon. But alas, the Wolves worked the Bucks to take the season series 2-0.
A lengthy first quarter finally came to an end after a lengthy video review of a donnybrook started by Patrick Beverley, but the Bucks were behind 28-34. In an exact scoring replica of the first quarter, the Bucks allowed scoring both at the rim and from the perimeter from the Timberwolves, as they took a sizable 68-56 lead into the locker rooms at half. Minnesota only laid the smackdown on from there, pummeling the Bucks during the stereotypical poor third quarter en route to a 106-82 advantage to start the fourth. Bud played the Thanasis Antetokounmpo card early in the final period, waving the white flag and giving most of the regular starters a chance to rest as they prepare to head home.
Pat Connaughton played. It’s as simple as that for this takeaway. Yes, he missed his first three-pointer, but the more important part of it was how he still had the same “catch the ball high and immediately release” that we’ve seen added to his game this season. On his second shot, he got nothing by nylon. He also made several solid rotations on the backside near the rim to contest rollers and was generally looking like his old self fitting back in. It was a promising sign given the potential for shooting woes with the injury to his shooting hand. He had 15 points on 5-11 shooting from deep in 20 minutes of on-court action.
Brook Lopez found his way. Not only was it his first start since the first game of the season, but he also was by far the most capable rim protector for Milwaukee when he was in there. Any time he wasn’t, the paint looked like an open invitation for the Wolves bigs rolling to the rim off the pick-and-roll. He had several really impressive contests of Karl-Anthony Towns at the rim. Offensively, we got a lethargic drive to the tin, a trademark tipout and finishes at the rim. It was another step towards his return to form. He played 20 minutes and had 15 points and four boards on 6-10 shooting.
Sloppy fouling and ballhandling doomed them today. Milwaukee has always made hay in the Bud era by not fouling their opponent, but today the Wolves had a masive free throw rate (23.9) compared to the Bucks opponent season average of 16.5. On top of that, the Wolves took every opportunity the Bucks turned it over to manufacture points. They turned 14 Bucks turnovers into 21 points. Milwaukee meanwhile mustered merely four points off 11 Wolves turnovers. All in all, a performance worth forgetting with the wrong stuff done on the margins.
Bonus Bucks Bits
Initially, the Bucks 3-point shooting was keeping them in the game as they hovered around 50% for the first half. It abandoned them as the minutes ticked on though, while the Wolves only got hotter the more they attempted, ending the game at 22-47 (45.7%).
I can’t remember a game where the refs inserted themselves into it at this ridiculous level. Frequent reviews for calls that didn’t seem to warrant it. Reviews that went on too long. Quick trigger technical fouls. It was excessive.
Let's just say, the officials are trying to tighten this game up a little bit with the last few possessions...— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) March 19, 2022
With Giannis out, we got the first game of the season with Brook Lopez starting, while Bobby Portis slid into the power forward spot. Within the first three minutes, we got one of his patented glacial drives against the diminutive yet dangerous Patrick Beverley. Nature is healing.
As is tradition, we got a Patrick Beverley spat in this one with Serge and Taurean Prince jostling for a rebound before Bev came in and shoved Serge in the back. Not an ideal way to kick off the festivities here as it led to an extended break, possibly up to 10 minutes, in the action. When all was said and done, the refs ejected Beverley, who shoved Ibaka, and George Hill, who really didn’t seem to do anything nearly as egregious as Beverley, but did shove Bev back. Regardless, I guess it was enough Hill got to call it an early day.
D’Angelo Russell pummeled the Bucks with pocket passes on the pick-and-roll. Every time they would bring Naz Reid up to screen, Portis would come up to bring added ball pressure, but over and over Russell was able to slice through the two Bucks defenders with a bounce pass to give a rolling Reid an easy dunk.
I hate to always bag on Jordan Nwora, and he had some decent fill-in minutes, but a sequence in the second when he broke out for a solo fast break layup that he biffed over D’Angelo Russell. followed by him randomly looking elsewhere while he was face-guarding Russell to allow an easier jumper was so indicative of why he remains such a frustrating presence on this team.
Without Giannis, you could really see the team’s reliance on trying to score from the outside, as they attempted 50% of their shots from beyond the arc.