Bucks hope trend continues when they face Timberwolves
The Milwaukee Bucks will get a chance to match up against a Western Conference team on Saturday, and if recent history holds form, they are about to feast.
To be fair, the Bucks have feasted on just about everybody of late. They will enter Saturday's matchup at home against the Minnesota Timberwolves having won 15 of their last 17 games, including a 98-97 victory over the Boston Celtics at home on Thursday in their return from the All-Star break.
Against teams from the West, the Bucks have been even more impressive lately. Milwaukee last lost against a Western Conference team on Jan. 27, when it dropped a 118-112 decision at Oklahoma City. The Bucks' last loss to a Western Conference team before that was on Dec. 7 at home against the Golden State Warriors.
The Bucks do have six defeats against Western Conference teams, though, including one to the lowly Phoenix Suns on Nov. 23, so the Timberwolves can take that to heart when visiting their neighboring state to the east.
Figuring out a way to slow Giannis Antetokounmpo figures to be essential. The All-Star Game captain scored 30 points against the Celtics on Thursday, including 12 in the fourth quarter. His 25th game of at least 30 points this season came after scoring just four points in the first quarter.
"It says a lot about this team, how focused we are to get back on track," Antetokounmpo said about pulling off a hard-fought victory in the return from the break. "Obviously, you turn the ball over a lot (Thursday), and it's OK. We just came back from the All-Star break. We tried to get back on track and we will watch tape. We're going to try to be better offensively."
Antetokounmpo also grabbed 13 rebounds Thursday and has 41 double-doubles in 54 games this season.
The Wolves have their own All-Star in Karl-Anthony Towns, who has scored 23.1 points per game with 12.0 rebounds, but he did not play Friday in New York after he was involved in a car crash Thursday in Minneapolis.
A concussion forced him to miss the first game of his career, breaking his consecutive-game streak at 303, but the Timberwolves won 115-104 against the Knicks. Towns is listed as day-to-day and his status for Saturday is unknown.
Where Antetokounmpo has led his team atop the Eastern Conference standings, Towns and Andrew Wiggins (17.9 points per game) have only been able to fashion a 28-30 record.
But there are signs of life. The Wolves are on a three-game winning streak, but that came off a run where they lost six of seven.
Since head coach Tom Thibodeau was fired following a 108-86 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Jan. 6, Minnesota is 9-9 under interim coach Ryan Saunders. The Wolves are three games out of the conference's final playoff spot with two teams in front of them to become playoff eligible.
But Towns insists that all is not lost, showing that he has taken on the role of vocal leader as well.
"We're in a good position," Towns, before he was ruled out, said, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "It doesn't matter about statistical things, individual things, stuff like that. We still have a great chance to make the playoffs. We just have to capitalize on the opportunity."
The Bucks are getting healthy quickly. Antetokounmpo had a recent bout with knee soreness but appeared to play at full strength Thursday.
Nikola Mirotic made his Bucks debut Thursday after coming over in a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans and recovering from a calf injury. He played 11 minutes and scored eight points against the Celtics.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 23, 2019