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Bucks at Wolves: Game Preview

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The Wolves look to snap another two-game losing skid at home.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Milwaukee Bucks (27-22) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (32-22)
7:00 pm CST
FSN

Tonight the Wolves face off against the Bucks for the second and final time this season in hopes of putting their two most recent games as far behind them as possible. After losing in unreasonable fashion to Atlanta, the Wolves were unable to stave off a feisty Raptors team in Toronto the following night on Tuesday.

As such, Minnesota returns to Target Center tonight on yet another two-game losing streak. Despite this, there is some small solace in the fact that we’ve seen this exact streak from the Wolves six other times so far this season, and every time they snap it before the streak reaches three. How’s that for some strange comfort?

On the other hand, Tuesday’s game in Toronto marked the Wolves’ sixth loss in the last nine games. When you look at it that way, it’s a lot harder to stomach, and there’s no real way to put a positive spin on it.

Meanwhile the Bucks are 4-0 since ousting Jason Kidd as head coach, although the only win in that bunch worth mentioning came against Philadelphia. With so many young and talented pieces, the Bucks boast a roster that is long and lean at nearly every position, making match-ups difficult at both ends of the floor.

Having someone like Giannis Antetokounmpo as the two-way centerpiece of your front- and back-court makes for a difficult task for any team. It’ll be fun to see what they can do once Jabari Parker returns from injury, which is expected to happen on Friday.

For a team that has so many young and talented players, Milwaukee is still very much in the middle stages of figuring it all out — hence the firing of Jason Kidd. But since Joe Prunty took over as head coach, the Bucks’ defense has stepped up their game, averaging a defensive rating of 101.9 in the last four games compared to 109.7 on the season. If they can somehow maintain that defensive rating in the games to come, that would put them in elite company around the league.

The two glaring issues being discussed writ large among Wolves fandom recently have been Jeff Teague’s under-performance and Karl-Anthony Towns’ lack of shot attempts.

Recently Teague has been timid when he should be aggressive and reckless when he should be measured. His decision-making has been off on nearly all accounts — from shot selection to transition defense to even late-game inbounds plays. The Tyus chants are getting louder, and if Teague puts up a stinker again tonight, a change needs to happen fast.

For KAT, he’s taken fewer than 10 shots in the last two games, which is a problem for obvious reasons. There’s really no excuse for not getting your franchise cornerstone looks on the offensive end; however, this shouldn’t all fall on Thibs. Occasionally KAT gets in a headspace where he’s oversharing the ball. And while his ability to draw a double-team and pass out of it has been very valuable to this year’s team, he still needs to hunt for his own looks every so often.

Quirky match-ups on the court make this Bucks team slippery and peculiar, but if the Wolves can contain Giannis as much as humanly possible without forgetting about Middleton on the wing, they should be OK.

Expected Line-Ups

Wolves
Jeff Teague
Jimmy Butler
Andrew Wiggins
Taj Gibson
Karl-Anthony Towns

Bucks
Malcom Brogdon
Tony Snell
Khris Middleton
Giannis Antetokounmpo
John Henson

Injuries: Eric Bledsoe (doubtful, ankle), Jabari Parker (out, ACL)

Prediction

Wolves 105, Bucks 100: The Wolves continue their stretch of snapping two-game losing streaks by squeezing one out against a feisty Bucks squad. I’m looking for a big game from KAT and the supporting cast off the bench.