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Wolves at Bucks: Border Battle

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The KAT-less Wolves enter the Fiserv Forum to take on the Bucks

NBA: Boston Celtics at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Wolves (28-30) at Bucks (44-14)

7:30pm CST

FS North

The Wolves managed to take care of business against the lowly Knicks last night, but they have a much tougher test tonight in Milwaukee. They will likely be without Karl-Anthony Towns again due to a concussion, and even with Towns, on the road against the Bucks, who sport the best record in the NBA, is a tall order.

There is not a lot Minnesota can do, given their personnel, to cause problems for Milwaukee tonight, so let’s take a look at just how good these Bucks have been.

Milwaukee has been the best team in the NBA this season. Yes, the Warriors will almost assuredly take home the title in June, but in the regular season the Bucks have been the best team. They have the highest net-rating (9.4), boast the top rated defense, and are the only team in the NBA with a top-5 rated offense and defense.

The addition of coach Mike Budenholzer has injected this Bucks squad with an energy and confidence that they did not have under the prior regime.

Coach Bud has been awesome, but it’d be wrong not to talk about Giannis Antetokounmpo. I’m firmly a believer that Lebron is still the best player in the NBA, but Giannis has absolutely been the best player in the league this year, if that makes sense. He’s going to lead the Bucks to the top seed in the East and win MVP.

I’ve heard the skepticism about how this team will hold up in the playoffs, and I honestly just don’t get it. Sure, Brook Lopez might have a hard time defending in the playoffs, but his shooting is a nightmare for teams on the other end. If Lopez really does get played off the floor, the Bucks can counter by putting Giannis at the 5 and rolling out a Bledsoe/Brogdon/Middleton/Mirotic/Giannis lineup. That’s terrifying. I expect to see Milwaukee in the NBA finals.

The Wolves don’t have anyone to match up with Giannis, but pretty much every team has that issue. I’m sure not everyone will agree with this, but I really think the best way to defend Giannis is the way that Utah did. They put Gobert, or whoever else was in at center, on Giannis and had that player just sit in the lane and defend the paint. Of course, Giannis still finished that game with 30 points but still.

For Minnesota, all I’m really going to watching for the rest of the season is going to be shot selection. It’s hard to find things to get really interested in when a squad really isn’t a playoff contender, but this is something that is really important. The Wolves will not reach their ceiling with shot selection like this.

I’m not sure if anyone on the team other than Dario and Tolliver are aware of this, but 3 points is more than 2 points. Shoot more threes, please. I’m no analytics supernerd, but here’s some simple math for you. Andrew Wiggins makes 33% of his threes. That’s not great by any means, but in order to score equally as efficiently on his mid-range jumpers that he loves so much, he would have to make 50% of those mid-range jumpers. Per Basketball Reference, he is making 29.9% of his shots between 16 feet and the three-point line this season, and 33.9% of those for his career. I rest my case.

Bet of the night

I’m in no way saying that you SHOULD make these bets. I’m not betting them. It’s just a fun extra thing that I’ll be tracking for the remainder of the season. All lines via Bovada.

We’ve scratched and clawed our way all the way back to .500. I’m proud of us. Granted, taking the Wolves to just win outright against the Knicks isn’t exactly a wild, crazy bet. Anyways, we’re now 5-5 on the year and we look to get above even for the first time.

The pick: Timberwolves Under 107.5 points

Look, it brings me no joy to pick against the Wolves, but I have to have some integrity here too. This Bucks team does not mess around. That might be the thing I admire the most about them. They don’t play with their food. If you’re not up to the task, they drill you. They have the best defense in the league and I imagine they’re going to suffocate the Wolves tonight. I really hope I’m wrong (wouldn’t be the first time), but I don’t expect this to be a pretty one tonight.

Projected Lineups

Wolves

Jeff Teague

Josh Okogie

Andrew Wiggins

Dario Saric

Taj Gibson

Bucks

Eric Bledsoe

Malcolm Brogdon

Khris Middleton

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Brook Lopez