Bucks overcome big deficit to beat Timberwolves
MILWAUKEE — When the Milwaukee Bucks were outplayed by the Bulls two nights ago, any local disapproval was drowned out by the herd of Chicago fans that made the short trek up I-94.
But when the visiting Timberwolves buried the Bucks in a 20-point hole early in the third quarter Thursday night, a sellout crowd of 18,717 let the home team knew exactly how it felt.
“I’d have booed us too,” forward John Henson admitted.
The Bucks, though, got the message loud and clear as Henson scored 10 in the third and Eric Bledsoe scored six of his game-high 26 over the final 2:25 as Milwaukee rallied for a 102-96 victory.
“We knew why they were booing,” Bledsoe said. “Getting booed on your home court, nobody wants to hear that. That’s a sign you’re playing like (poop).”
Even that might be an understatement.
Any hope that the Bucks might have learned a lesson or two from their embarrassing home-court loss to Chicago two nights earlier disappeared quickly as Milwaukee turned the ball over four times in the first four minutes to fall behind, 17-6 and were down, 26-16, to open the second.
The Bucks had nearly as many turnovers (6) as they did field goals (7) in the quarter while the Timberwolves knocked down four 3-pointers and got 10 points from Wiggins.
Bledsoe provided a brief spark in the second, notching three steals while Middleton dumped in eight points to cut the deficit to five with 8:40 left in the half.
Minnesota pushed the lead to 20 with 7:13 left in the third quarter before the Bucks showed signs of life, getting 10 each from Henson and Bledsoe to make it an 84-75 game.
By then, fatigue may have been setting in for Minnesota, which needed overtime to dispatch Denver the night before though the Timberwolves weren’t willing to use that as an excuse.
“I won’t make excuses to be honest with you. You can say that, but we still built a big enough lead where we should have finished that game.”
Still, it was obvious that their tank was running on fumes. They were connecting at a 57 percent clip through the first three quarters but hit just four of 19 shots the rest of the way while missing eight of 10 attempts from distance.
“There were so many moving parts at the end of the third,” said Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau, whose squad had won five in a row. “Once we had the lead up to 20, Andrew (Wiggins) sprained his ankle so that hurt us some. Tyus (Jones) dislocated his ring finger and so we just didn’t play good down the stretch.”
Wiggins had 21 through the first three quarters and played all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter but was held scoreless on 0-for-3 shooting while Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler finished with 22 and 20, respectively, but were held to a combined 10 in the quarter.
“They had momentum late, we just didn’t execute,” Timberwolves forward Taj Gibson said.
Towns’ 3-pointer with 4:19 left was his fourth of the game, matching a season-high, and gave Minnesota its last lead of the night at 93-90. Milwaukee answered with 10 straight points — including six from Bledsoe, who gave Milwaukee its first lead of the night when he knocked down a 3-pointer from the corner with 2:25 left.
The Timberwolves would miss their next four shots, all of them from beyond the arc, while Bledsoe dished out assists to Antetokounmpo and Henson, letting Milwaukee pad its lead and finish the comeback.
“We got off to a slow start but it’s a 48-minute game. That group played hard. They didn’t quit. They kept fighting. They got stops, they shared the ball on the offensive end. Two different halves but we fought and we found a way to win.”
NOTES: Minnesota PG Jeff Teague will miss two to four weeks because of a sprained MCL in his left knee, the team announced Thursday. With Teague out, Tyus Jones moved into the starting lineup against Milwaukee and finished with six points on 2-of-5 shooting in 35 minutes. ... Milwaukee has scored 100 points or more in 16 consecutive games, the longest run of 100-point games by a Bucks team since the 1986-87 season. ... The teams split the season series a year ago, but Milwaukee has won six of the past seven meetings, including four in a row at the Bradley Center.