The fast-rising Minnesota Timberwolves seek their sixth consecutive victory when they visit the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday. Offseason acquisition Jimmy Butler has helped spur the improvement, and he scored a season-best 39 points in Wednesday’s 128-125 overtime win over Denver.
Butler, a three-time All-Star who was acquired from Chicago, is a big reason why a club that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2004 is nine games above .500 at the 35-game mark. “He’s got an unbelievable will to win, and that’s what makes him so special,” Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters of Butler. “When his best is needed, he’s always at his best. Always been that way, and that’s not going to change.” The Bucks will try to slow down Butler, as well as halt a stretch during which they have lost five of their last seven games. Giannis Antetokounmpo (knee) is expected to play, though the club is closely monitoring the injury that caused him to miss Saturday ‘s game.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, FSN North (Minnesota), FSN Wisconsin (Milwaukee)
ABOUT THE TIMBERWOLVES (22-13): Butler knew the history that includes 12 straight losing campaigns but was fine with the draft-day trade as Chicago is in rebuilding mode. He was thrilled to join Thibodeau - the former coach of the Bulls - and has been on a mission to help change the culture of a franchise that hasn’t been a playoff-caliber squad since Kevin Garnett’s prime. “I just want to be here to win, give this city hope, put this city back where it wants to be - at the top of this thing, in the playoffs,” Butler told reporters after Wednesday’s victory. “But we’ve got to continue to play some really good basketball.”
ABOUT THE BUCKS (17-15): Antetokounmpo played through the pain on Tuesday and scored 28 points on 11-of-17 shooting to mark his 22nd consecutive 20-point effort. Coach Jason Kidd said the club will remain proactive in its observation of the 23-year-old star, who ranks second in the NBA with an average of 29.5 points. Kidd was less than thrilled with the club’s rebounding in Tuesday’s 115-106 loss to Chicago, saying, “That’s just who we are, we can’t rebound the ball. We just hope and pray that someone gets it. When that happens, we’re going to get killed, and we got killed again.”
1. The Bucks have won five of the last six meetings.
2. Minnesota PG Jeff Teague (left knee) departed Wednesday’s game in the fourth quarter and will undergo an MRI exam on Thursday.
3. Milwaukee swingman Khris Middleton was just 5-for-18 while scoring 16 points against the Bulls after averaging 29.5 over the previous two contests.
PREDICTION: Bucks 103, Timberwolves 102