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Timberwolves return from All-Star break with 112-107 loss to Bucks

Chris Hine, Star Tribune on

Published in Basketball

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Timberwolves coach Chris Finch was asked before Friday's matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks whether he was more worried about a team's potential lack of focus in the final game before the All-Star break or its potential to come out rusty in the first game after.

He joked he was worried about both, and he was certainly right to fear that Friday night, as the Wolves had a disastrous, rust-filled third quarter in a 112-107 loss to the Bucks.

The Wolves fell behind 17 after an abysmal third quarter that they lost 36-13. They got their act together for the fourth quarter, and cut Milwaukee's lead to 98-92 on a pair of consecutive Karl-Anthony Towns threes with 4 minutes, 56 seconds to play. That was part of a 16-5 Wolves run. They would cut it to 105-101 on an Anthony Edwards three with 1:58 to play, and then to three on another Edwards three with 32 seconds left. But Damian Lillard hit a 21-footer with 10.3 seconds left to clinch the win for Milwaukee. The third quarter had proven too much for the Wolves to overcome.

For most of the season, and especially during the four-game win streak the Timberwolves carried into the All-Star break, third quarters were a friend to the Wolves, who rank No. 1 in third-quarter net rating on the season. But not so on Friday, when they lost the third quarter by 23. Their offense retreated into a shell of itself to the tune of 6-for-23 with seven turnovers.

They got some of their offensive synergy back in the fourth quarter, specifically Towns, who finished with 22 points. But Giannis Antetokounmpo got to the hoop and the free-throw line enough down the stretch to keep the Wolves from coming all the way back. He finished with 33 points, 14-for-21 at the free-throw line.

Edwards struggled in his first game back with 28 points, as he was just 10-for-27 from the field and didn't get hot until late.

The Wolves also started the game like they haven't played in a while, with three turnovers on the first four possessions. This enabled the Bucks to take a 7-0 lead in the first two-plus minutes.

 

The Wolves did a commendable job early on Lillard, who began the night 0-for-5, but Milwaukee got early contributions from Brook Lopez, who had 12 points on four threes in the first quarter. The Wolves began the night 11-for-26 from the floor in the first and hit the offensive glass for most of their production. They had 15 second-chance points in the first quarter.

The Wolves poured on another eight in that category in the second quarter and had a 23-4 edge at halftime. Again they held Lillard in check, as he was 1-for-9 in the first half.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker provided a huge lift off the bench and hit his first three threes of the night as the rest of the team seemed to leave their shots on the beach in Cabo.

His contributions, plus a couple timely lobs from Towns to Rudy Gobert, helped the Wolves grab their first lead of the night. They led by as much as eight before taking a 57-51 lead into halftime. Both Gobert and Towns had 10 rebounds by halftime.

The Wolves lost all that early in the third as Milwaukee went on a 7-0 run to start the second half. As Minnesota's offense retreated into a shell of itself, the Bucks took advantage, specifically in a 15-2 run that spanned three minutes. Gobert appeared to get hurt going for a rebound, and he stayed on the floor for a few minutes after the injury as the Bucks went on their run which featured threes from Pat Connaughton and Lillard.


©2024 StarTribune. Visit at startribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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