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Milwaukee Bucks vs. Minnesota Timberwolves Preview: Doc returns home

It will be Rivers’ first home game during his Bucks tenure

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NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Minnesota Timberwolves Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

After spending his first five games on the road, Doc Rivers will finally be able to coach the Milwaukee Bucks in front of the home crowd at Fiserv Forum. The first home test will come against the Minnesota Timberwolves, who are in a four-way tie for the no. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

Where We’re At

Everyone knew that it would be a difficult transition period for the Bucks when bringing in Doc Rivers in the middle of the season. However, with the Rivers era beginning with a five-game west coast trip and being without four of his five starters against Phoenix for most of the game, the difficulty was at nearly an impossible level. Despite the 1-4 record, there are signs for future success, with the defense slowly climbing up from the bottom of the NBA in terms of rating. In the five games Rivers has coached, the Bucks are 16th in defensive rating (115.8) and are top five in fewest opponent fast break points, while also being in the top half of the league in points in the paint allowed and second chance points allowed. Even with that defensive uptick, the offense has fallen off a cliff, with Milwaukee carrying an offensive rating of 112.3 (24th). Now some of that does have to do with Lillard, Lopez, and Middleton’s absence, but it’s noticeable since the Bucks were top ten in offensive rating every month of the season before Adrian Griffin was fired. Hopefully with Doc having more than two practices with his new team, the offense will start to click once again.

After sneaking into the playoffs last year, the Minnesota Timberwolves are one of this year’s best teams in a loaded Western Conference. They are currently tied for first place in the West with the Clippers, Nuggets, and Thunder. Anthony Edwards is blossoming into the star player that Minnesota hoped he would become after taking him first overall in the 2020 draft out of Georgia. Edwards is averaging 25.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.1 assists while shooting 46.4% from the field and 39.4% from downtown. The big man duo of Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert is working much better than it did a season ago, with Towns spacing the floor by shooting 43.7% from deep on 5.2 attempts per game, while Gobert locks down the paint with 12.6 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. Combined with Jaden McDaniels, Kyle Anderson, and Mike Conley, the Minnesota defense carries the best rating throughout the entire season at 108.5, almost two full points better than the Cleveland Cavaliers. With the position the Timberwolves are in the front office seems to be in a buying mood, as they acquired Monte Morris from the Detroit Pistons for Shake Milton, Troy Brown Jr., and a 2030 second round pick to shore up the backup point guard spot behind Conley. Minnesota is a team that is finally living up to their lofty potential; the only question that remains is if they can keep it up for the rest of this season and into the playoffs.

Injury Report

The Bucks will come in with a laundry list of injuries, with six players on the report. Khris Middleton will be out after suffering an ankle sprain on his left foot in Tuesday’s game against the Suns. Damian Lillard is still questionable with his left ankle sprain, but Milwaukee could be getting Brook Lopez back after celebrating the birth of his first child. Giannis (right knee patellar tendinitis), Jae Crowder (left ankle sprain), and Cam Payne (hyperextended left knee) are all listed as probable as they all deal with different ailments.

Minnesota will only be without Jaylen Clark, who is recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Player To Watch

Malik Beasley has put together back-to-back efficient performances to start the month of February. In the absence of Khris Middleton and Damian Lillard, Beasley became the primary perimeter threat and cashed in on that against the Suns on Tuesday night, scoring 22 points on 6-for-14 shooting from beyond the arc. The three point contest contestant will be vital to spacing the floor, with the Timberwolves allowing the fourth fewest made threes per game at 11.5

How To Watch

Bally Sports WI at 7:00 PM CST.



Poll

Game 52: against the Timberwolves, the Bucks will...

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  • 11%
    Win big (by 10 or more points)
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  • 32%
    Win close (by 9 or fewer points)
    (22 votes)
  • 27%
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    (19 votes)
  • 27%
    Lose big (by 10 or more points)
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