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Game Preview 56: Wolves vs Bucks

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Minnesota hosts another of the Eastern Conference elites this afternoon

Milwaukee Bucks v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

Wolves (14-41) vs Bucks (33-20)

3:30pm CST

Bally Sports

Today’s the second game of Minnesota’s matinee back-to-back, where they host another Eastern Conference powerhouse in the Milwaukee Bucks.

While Milwaukee’s regular season record isn’t as fearsome as it has been each of the past two years, they’re still a talented team who I still believe is a legitimate contender to come out of the Eastern Conference. We’ve been begging Mike Budenholzer to be more flexible, and willing to try different tactics during the regular season, and for the most part he’s been doing that.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that their regular season record isn’t as sparkly, even with the addition of Jrue Holiday. Specifically, Milwaukee has started to mix-it-up a bit more on defense. In the past, they almost exclusively played drop coverage, which worked pretty well. It’s still their bread and butter, with Brook Lopez manning the paint, Giannis Antentokounmpo serving as a weak-side menace, and Jrue Holiday normally fighting over the ball-screen.

This strategy, even with their fantastic personnel, still is vulnerable to good shooting teams in the playoffs, so Bud has mixed in more switching, which Milwaukee is still working on mastering. While not a playoff team, Minnesota is especially equipped to handle drop coverage due in part to D’Angelo Russell’s proficiency in the mid-range, but more importantly because you can’t leave Karl-Anthony Towns unattended at the three-point line. If Milwaukee doesn’t adjust, Towns’ shooting could keep Minnesota in this one for a little while.

That’s to be expected, too. They’ve only done things one way for several years now, it was never going to be a smooth transition for them on that end of the floor.

Offensively, they’ve began using Giannis as the PnR roll-man much more often, which has delivered predictably fantastic results. I maintain that the best version of Giannis is him not being used as a jumbo-sized LeBron James, but closer to the Anthony Davis-type play-finishing big man, but one who is also able to create with the pass off the short roll with ease.

On the Wolves side of things, I’ll once again just be looking for growth from the young guys and further improved chemistry between D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards. Things with Karl-Anthony Towns are pretty much always going to be good, but it’s what these two guys can do together that really can elevate the ceiling of this roster.

Additionally, it’ll be entertaining to see who Chris Finch decides to throw at Giannis. I guess Jaden McDaniels might make the most sense, but I’d assume in that case Giannis will just attempt to bully him. Minnesota would be wise to be set-up and ready for a few early charges on the Greek Freak to get him in early foul trouble.

Projected Lineups

Wolves

Ricky Rubio

Anthony Edwards

Josh Okogie

Jaden McDaniels

Karl-Anthony Towns

Bucks

Jrue Holiday

Donte DiVincenzo

Khris Middleton

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Brook Lopez