Recap: Bucks 106 – Timberwolves 88


The Bucks moved to 2-3 in the preseason Tuesday night after dispatching the Timberwolves 106-88 at the Kohl Center in Madison.

In front of a surprisingly rowdy crowd, Milwaukee jumped out to an eight-point first quarter lead behind strong play from its starting five. Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Michael Carter-Williams and Greg Monroe each finished in double figures, with Middleton’s 17 points in 28 minutes leading the way. The Bucks’ fifth starter, O.J. Mayo, finished with seven points on 3-of-7 shooting in 25 minutes.

The Timberwolves clawed back into the game in the second quarter, going on a 10-2 run midway through the period to tie the game at 37 on a pair of Shabazz Muhammad free throws.

But the Bucks would weather the storm. After the teams traded baskets for most of the remainder of the second quarter, the Bucks clung to a two-point halftime lead before blowing the game open in the third.

Milwaukee outscored Minnesota 35-17 in the third quarter, ending the period on a 13-3 run over the final 3:10. Jason Kidd sat most of his starters the rest of the way, with only Monroe logging minutes in the fourth quarter.

Notes & Observations:

-Giannis got the crowd going early with this monster putback dunk, which you’ve probably seen by now:

-He also did this:

-As well as this:

-Giannis also hit a three during Milwaukee’s third quarter run. After going 2-for-2 against Washington on Saturday, he’s now 3-for-6 in the preseason. Not much of a sample size, but it’s an improvement over where he left off in April.

-Minnesota didn’t have an answer for Greg Monroe inside. Looking back at my game notes, I wrote some variation of “Moose is killing them inside” four separate times. Monroe abused Karl-Anthony Towns, who was virtually invisible for much of the night, bullying him for offensive boards and put-backs on multiple occasions (Monroe also did it to KG in the third quarter). His aggressiveness got Minnesota in foul trouble early, and Towns left the game with a pair of personals after just three minutes. Kevin Garnett also racked up a pair of fouls before the nine-minute mark of the first quarter. Monroe finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds, six of which came on the offensive end. He converted just 3-of-6 free throw attempts, however.

-There were a ton of excellent jerseys in the crowd. Among the highlights: Kobe Bryant (Lakers), Thaddeus Young (76ers), Randy Moss (Vikings), Wally Szczerbiak (Wolves), Jason Kidd (Cal)

-The Bucks ran a really excellent set for Khris Middleton to close the first half. With Greivis Vasquez at the point, Greg Monroe set a ball screen at the top of the key, forcing his defender (Dieng) to hedge as Vasquez’s defender (Rubio) fought over the screen. As that action was happening, Middleton’s defender (Muhammad) was forced to stay closer to the lane to guard against a Monroe roll. As a result, Middleon then faded up from the corner to the wing, and Vasquez took a couple of dribbles before whipping a crosscourt pass to Middleton for an open three. Middleton was unable to convert, but Michael Carter-Williams flew in for a contested rebound and tip-in just before the buzzer. Regardless, it was a nice, simple set.

-Former Wisconsin standout – “legendary” is maybe a bit much – Marcus Landry entered the game to start the third quarter, much to the delight of the partisan-Badger crowd. Landry made some nice plays, finishing with five points (a mid-range jumper and a three) to go with three boards and a pair of blocks, one of which was a chasedown swat of Muhammad that ricocheted off the backboard. Kidd spoke very highly of Landry during his postgame media availability, emphasizing that Landry has earned his spot on the preseason roster, as well as his role in the game. “One, he deserves to play, and two, I thought he responded in a positive way,” Kidd said. “It was nothing he hasn’t done for us before. He was excited to come back, this is home for him.” It remains unlikely that Landry cracks the final roster, but he certainly didn’t look out of place Tuesday night.

-The crowd at this game was off the charts, as far as Tuesday night preseason NBA games in a non-NBA town go. The listed attendance was 12,381, and I’d estimate about 90-95% of the Kohl Center’s lower bowl was full. The middle and, especially, upper decks were more sparsely populated, but on the whole fans were engaged and loud well into the fourth quarter. Giannis dunks – well, anything Giannis did, really – seemed to earn the most thunderous applause, but the loudest moments of the night didn’t come until the fourth quarter. I have never heard, live, any player boo’d the way this crowd boo’d Tyus Jones. Every single time he touched the ball they let him have it. The back story to that, of course, is that Jones’ Duke team knocked off Wisconsin to win the NCAA Title back in April. The Blue Devils also came to Madison and beat the Badgers as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge earlier in the season. So, yeah, well-deserved, I guess.

-In addition to the boo’ing of Jones, the crowd got pretty rowdy during a pair of Towns free throws in the third quarter, chanting “38-1!” at the former Kentucky standout. Towns’ Wildcats fell to Sam Dekker, Frank Kaminsky and Wisconsin in the Final Four this past season.

Johnny O’Bryant played only three minutes, entering late in the fourth quarter to no applause whatsoever. He turned the ball over on his first touch but responded shortly after with a fairly emphatic alley-oop finish for his only points of the game.

-Khris Middleton was arguably Milwaukee’s best player for most of this game, finishing with six rebounds and two assists to go with his team-high 17 points. He hit several tough shots in the mid-range and finished a difficult, hanging, reverse layup early in the third quarter. Middleton also defended Andrew Wiggins well, helping to hold him to just 14 points on 3-of-11 shooting.

-Getting swatted by Giannis aside, Shabazz Muhammad looked like the real deal. He scored a game-high 18 points, 13 of which came within the first six minutes of the second quarter. Muhammad finished 11-of-11 from the free throw line.

-Just because the game was in Madison did not mean the Bucks’ marketing team held back on any of their usual in-game stunts. Bucky made a few appearances, the “Hoop Troop” trampoline dunker guys were there, and there was even a dance contest in which multiple young children both “whipped” and “nae nae’d.” And, of course, there was the t-shirt giveaway, which was cleverly stashed away until late in the fourth quarter. It never ceases to amaze me the lengths to which people will go for an oversized t-shirt. With the Bucks up close to 20 at the time, the crowd had grown rather lethargic (save for the Jones boo’ing), but nothing, NOTHING, gets the people going like a booming “IT’S T-SHIRT TIME” from the PA announcer.

Kevin Martin was 0-of-10 from the field in 24 minutes. Not exactly the spark off the bench Minnesota was looking for. The Wolves shot just 32.9 percent as a team.

-The Bucks seemed to over-pass at times Tuesday, especially in fast break situations. Ball movement really wasn’t an issue, but moving the ball to create open shots was. The Bucks did an excellent job of passing to find shooters, but I would venture to guess Kidd would prefer guys like Bayless and Middleton – and even Giannis – take open looks rather than passing out and eating into the shot clock.

-Karl-Anthony Towns really didn’t impress me. I know it’s only one game and he was in considerable foul trouble, but if you asked casual fans at the arena which non-Wiggins Wolves player was the No. 1 pick in the draft, they probably would probably have guessed Muhammad or even Gorgui Dieng, who flashed some increased polish on the offensive end. Towns wasn’t necessarily bad – he finished with six points and six boards in just 13 minutes – but he wasn’t a real difference-maker on either end.

Zach LaVine‘s only field goal of the game came via this alley-oop. He should give the dunk contest a try.

Rashad Vaughn, Milwaukee’s leader in minutes and field goal attempts coming into this game, didn’t play until the fourth quarter. It likely doesn’t mean much, but he finished with only two points (a step-back two-point jumper) in seven minutes. Vaughn turned it over on his first touch of the game and fouled Shabazz Muhammad on a three-point attempt shortly after.

-I like Greivis Vasquez. He’s the Bucks’ most versatile guard off the bench, and he’s a far better (and more willing) outside shooter than Jerryd Bayless. As I’ve said before, I think he ends up playing more than Bayless this season.

-The Bucks ran another nice set play after a pair of made Wolves free throws in the first quarter. With Carter-Williams and Mayo on the floor together, Mayo brought the ball up the floor, while Carter-Williams ran to the block and immediately posted up Ricky Rubio as soon as Mayo crossed halfcourt. Mayo fed the ball in, and the 6-6 Carter-Williams was able to draw reach-in foul right away. The play, whether it was scripted or not, didn’t lead directly to a basket, but it was nice recognition of a mismatch by both Mayo and MCW.

Andre Miller has some nasty (in a good way) cornrows, but according to him they won’t be around for long. I ran into him in the bowels of the Kohl Center during halftime, and he (unfortunately) confirmed that they’ll be gone when the games start to count. “No no no no, just for the preseason.”

-MCW shook Ricky Rubio and confidently drilled a three:

-With no Jabari Parker, the Bucks started Giannis at power forward but went with Chris Copeland as a stretch-four for much of the half. Copeland struggled defensively – he was burned badly on the perimeter by noted speedster Gorgui Dieng at one point – but he knocked down a trio three-pointers to finish with 11 points off the bench. Jared Dudley may have been a better defender and maybe a better spot-up shooter, but Copeland is a better shot-creator, and he has the height to be more effective against opposing fours who prefer to operate inside.

-Kevin Garnett was in Giannis’ ear pretty much whenever they were on the floor together. There was a lot of barking, none more than after Garnett thwarted a Giannis layup attempt in the third quarter. Giannis didn’t seem too phased by Garnett’s act, but he finished just 4-of-11 from the field. Even when out of the game, Garnett was ridiculously engaged, shouting directions to teammates from the sidelines, usually in a defensive-stance-like position. In other words, vintage KG.

-Milwaukee turned it over 24 times, a number they reached just four times all of last season. Kidd addressed the issue after the game when asked about MCW, saying, “He turned the ball over way too many times. My point guards can’t have 15 turnovers.” #WellActually, MCW and Vasquez combined for 11 turnovers, but if you throw in O.J. Mayo’s four, that makes an even 15.

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  1. I didn’t get to see the game so I really appreciate the work you put in to this game recap. I thoroughly enjoyed the read and video.

    Thank you & Go Bucks!

  2. Giannis is already getting a ton of love for that put back and the block. I just hope we see super take control Giannis for the whole year. I hope he averages 11 to 13 shots a game and 2 to 3 are 3 point shots.

  3. I have the feeling that the Monroe/Henson center combo may be one of the biggest stories of the year.

    If the Bucks get 25-30 and 15 boards to go with 2-3 blocks from it’s center duo on a nightly basis then much of the pressure will come away from the wings and the guards. In the preseason, both Monroe and Henson look like putting up strong #’s regularly will be no big stretch.

    The Bucks need TIME for Giannis and Jabari to take control night to night. It likely will not happen this year. So…. enter our dynamic center combo.

    Wondering- Why didn’t Henson wait until next off season to sign somewhere else where he could start, and also make more money (15-18 mill)? I know he wants to win but he’s got plenty of time for that. Did his agent let him down?

    • Henson reasons pick any if not all: he’s on a young and upcoming team, jason kidd is the coach, he was drafted here so he probably feels comfortable, 11 mil is nothing to sneeze at, he will still get plenty of time. If anything this way he gets to make money and win.

  4. Henson on offense is still rough to watch he only has the left hand. He is still a good defender though which makes up for his lack of offense

  5. It often baffles me when fans point out that “all” John Henson has is his left hand. Well, he makes 57% of his shots using that left hand of his.
    The NBA is 90% right handed and most rarely shoot with the left. So “all” they have is the right hand. What seems to really matter is if the ball goes in the basket or not.

    On another point- Henson doesn’t really lack offensively. Where he lacks is in minutes played. If Henson played starters minutes his stats (per 36) show he would put up starters #’s including an astounding 4 blocks per game.

    So let’s try to get realistic when it comes to John Henson.

    Let’s try to g

    • I like John’s game. I wish he could put the ball on the floor a little better to give him more of a driving threat. If he could do that it would make him a little more stretch like.