The Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks each fought to end their respective four-game losing streaks on Friday night, which ended with the Bucks snapping their streak and walking out of Fiserv Forum with a win.
Both teams were down key players — Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns for Minnesota and Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton for Milwaukee — and it was painfully clear that the Timberwolves were without their best rebounder after they allowed 68 total rebounds, surrendering 20 offensive rebounds and giving up 26 second chance points.
In combination with the onslaught on the boards, the Bucks caught fire from beyond the arc in the second half to take control of the game. They shot 3-for-22 (16%) from 3-point land in the first half and 11-for-17 (65%) in the second.
Without their two centers, the Wolves deployed Kyle Anderson and Naz Reid to the Giannis assignment, which proved to simply not be enough to guard the two-time MVP. Antetokounmpo started the game with 22 first-half points and 13 first-half free throws, and continued to pile it on from there on out.
Gobert missing Friday night’s game opened the door for Luka Garza-Nathan Knight front-court minutes, which we saw with about 3:30 left in the first quarter. Garza flashed some scoring ability — finishing with 16 points on 5-for-8 shooting — but still struggled to contain the Bucks’ bigs. Giannis, Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis combined for 78 points and 40 rebounds on the evening.
The Wolves got hammered on the glass — not overly surprising without Gobert, but still disappointing — allowing 54 rebounds through just three quarters. The offense sputtered and the defense crumbled for the Wolves to start the second half, giving the Bucks the momentum they needed to get back into the game. Milwaukee took the lead after hitting five 3-pointers and out-rebounding Minnesota 16-4 in the third quarter. The third quarter left the Timberwolves behind the 8 ball, and they weren’t able to work their way out of it.
Anderson, Reid and Jaden McDaniels — the main Giannis stoppers — finished the first half with two, three and three fouls, respectively, making the second half a nerve-wracking one. At the end of the game Giannis had posted his second consecutive 40-point, 20-rebound game, finishing the contest with 43 points and 20 rebounds.
Hang it up!! Hammer it down!! pic.twitter.com/8nD2smPO7m— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) December 31, 2022
Despite the troubles guarding Giannis, the Wolves went into halftime with an 11-point lead. They got to the free throw line 20 times in the first half, leading to 14 of their 61 points coming from the charity stripe.
Edwards got off to a hot start, scoring 12 first-quarter points on an efficient 5-8 shooting. The whole team started the game well, as the Wolves shot 58% from the field in quarter one.
Edwards led all Wolves scorers in the contest with 30 points on 10-for-20 shooting, while also putting his otherworldly athleticism on full display.
WHAT. A. SEQUENCE.@WickedKitchenWW Wicked Play of the Game— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) December 31, 2022
⭐️ » https://t.co/HEJ6rljGtF pic.twitter.com/g8nPiAa0nu
The third-year guard answered the call on Friday night, often going head-to-head with one of the best, if not the best, players in the league.
After not scoring through the first 18 minutes of the game, D’Angelo Russell ended the game with 15 points (eight from the free throw line) on 3-for-10 shooting while tacking on seven assists and five boards.
After missing the previous five games, Anderson returned to the starting lineup and once again proved to be a steadying force on both ends. His knack for passing and making important plays on offense helped to keep things interesting.
THIS is pretty basketball. pic.twitter.com/UJFb7OyHg3— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) December 31, 2022
The Wolves clawed back to just a six-point deficit with under a minute left, but could not climb out of the hole they dug for themselves in the earlier parts of the game.
The lack of rebounding on this team has been evident with Gobert on the floor this season, so not having him led to getting buried on the boards by a team with a deep front-court.
With 4:13 left in the game Edwards landed hard on his left hip/tailbone, leaving him face-down on the ground for a few minutes. After being told he needed to shoot the free throws (he was fouled on the play) or miss the rest of the game, he not only shot the free throws but remained in the game.
The Bucks crowd booed Anthony Edwards for staying in the game after taking a few minutes to recover from a bad fall on his tailbone.— Canis Hoopus (@canishoopus) December 31, 2022
A1 went on to produce 8 more points and a steal over the final 4:13.
Minnesota plays tomorrow in Minneapolis vs Detroit.pic.twitter.com/Ns4F5pHonZ
It’s an injury that he’ll surely feel tomorrow, and it’ll be a situation to monitor ahead of the Wolves’ New Year’s Eve matchup against the Pistons and Target Center at 7 p.m. CT.