Wolves vs Bucks
Tonight marks a quick stop home for Minnesota before they head out on the road again, and they welcome the force that is the Milwaukee Bucks into town.
Karl-Anthony Towns will be serving the final game of his suspension tonight, and while they were able to stay afloat without him over the weekend, tonight should be much tougher sledding.
For one, it’s hard to imagine Minnesota will be able to score with such ease tonight, like they were in Washington. The Wizards are horrendous defensively, while Milwaukee is a defensive force.
The leader of that defense is, of course, Giannis Antetokounmpo. It’s hard to say anything about the Greek Freak that hasn’t already been said, but from the perspective of a pure basketball fan, I’m looking forward to seeing him up close and personal tonight.
As a Wolves fan, this could be an ugly matchup. Giannis is the big name, but Eric Bledsoe and Brook Lopez are phenomenal defenders in their own rights. Bledsoe, especially, feels a bit underrated as to what he brings to the table defensively.
The Wolves will likely struggle to score, but I’m concerned about how the Bucks might be able to take advantage of Minnesota’s drop coverage in the pick-and-roll. Eric wrote about this today, and in many ways it is to thank for Minnesota’s improvement on the less glamorous end.
No scheme is perfect, though. Everything is a give-and-take, and there is potential for the scheme to be exposed tonight. In drop coverage, the big keeps a foot in the paint at all times against the PnR.
This is a great way to deter shots from the paint, but Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez could exploit this. Lopez has developed into a capable shooter from beyond the arc, and leaving the big in the paint will leave Lopez open quite frequently in the pick-and-pop.
That is, if Milwaukee chooses to try to exploit that hole. The Bucks only use PnR on about 13% of their possessions, a bottom-five figure in the NBA. Milwaukee’s offense is more predicated on ball-movement and cutting actions. It’ll be interesting to see how they approach the matchup in that regard.
On Minnesota’s end, they may really struggle to score tonight without KAT. Against Washington, Jeff Teague and Andrew Wiggins were able to control the offense and create good looks at will, combining for 36 points and 19 assists. Tonight, though, they won’t be defended by Ish Smith and Isaac Bonga. Rather, they’ll see a lot of Bledsoe, Wes Matthews, Khris Middleton, and Giannis. That’s a massive step-up in terms of defensive ability.
If Minnesota is to score enough to remain competitive tonight, they’ll need the aforementioned Teague and Wiggins to create while remaining efficient. They’ll also need another big night from Jarrett Culver, who showed some of his scoring potential in the last game.
A lot of the responsibility tonight will also fall on Ryan Saunders and Pablo Prigioni. In a sense, you think of a game like this in a similar fashion to an NFL Offensive Coordinator devising a game plan for his backup quarterback to move the ball and score points. Minnesota doesn’t have the individual talent to score against a defense as good as Milwaukee’s without a good deal of help from the coaching staff.
Another area to keep an eye on tonight is the backboards. Milwaukee is an interesting team in terms of their rebounding philosophy. They hammer the defensive backboards, posting a DREB% of 80.0%, tops in the league. Conversely, though, Milwaukee only pulls down 18.3% of their own missed shots, which is worst in the league. It’s clear that coach Mike Budenholzer favors getting back on defense to take away transition baskets over working to create extra opportunities on offense. I suppose when you have the third most efficient offense (111.5 ORTG) in the NBA, you don’t necessarily need to worry about creating second opportunities as much.
One last thing, I’m looking to see if Gorgui Dieng can pick up where he left off in Washington. It would be great to see G continue to play well, and eventually earn himself a spot in the regular rotation.
Minnesota’s in for a tough one. This could be a doozy, but the Wolves have answered the bell at nearly every turn so far in this young season. The supporting cast has an opportunity to make a statement with their play tonight. Crazier things have happened. For the Milwaukee side of things, head over to our friends at Brew Hoop.
Our friends over at Brewhoop have all you need on the Bucks.
Enjoy the game.