MILWAUKEE- In a crazy night in the NBA, the Milwaukee Bucks were right in the fray of it with a 102-96 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Bucks pulled off an improbable comeback, trailing by as many as 20 in the second half, and not even getting their first lead until less than four minutes left in the game.
After Milwaukee suffered one of its worst losses of the season Tuesday night in front of a sold-out crowd against the Chicago Bulls, the Bucks looked they were about to lay an absolute dud again, but saved themselves from losing six of eight.
In one of the weirdest games in recent memory, Milwaukee got off to a terribly slow start. The Bucks managed just six points to four turnovers in the first six minutes, as Minnesota got whatever they wanted, mainly from the perimeter but also with a couple easy ones in the paint, as they led 19-8. Less than two minutes into the game, Sterling Brown and Thon Maker were subbed into the game, which already raised some eyebrows early.
After the first 12 minutes, the home team trailed 26-16.
Early in the second quarter, Minnesota’s lead grew to 13, by a score of 35-22. With Giannis Antetokounmpo on the bench, Bucks’ wingman Khris Middleton went on a personal 8-0 run, which included a four-point play, to cut the gap to 35-30.
The Timberwolves’ solid play continued, maintaining the lead by double digits. After 21 minutes of game play, the defending Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon was finally subbed into the game, even after guards like Matthew Dellavedova and the aforementioned Brown had already gotten run on the court.
At the break, Minnesota led Milwaukee 56-46. The home unit was lucky to be down just 10, though, shooting only 17% from deep and committing 10 turnovers, while they were the team that looked like they were playing on the second night of a back to back.
In the third period, things got even worse for the Bucks. The Timberwolves opened the quarter on an 18-8 run, extending the lead all the way up to 20, 74-54. Milwaukee looked dejected, allowing easy looks on just about every halfcourt possession, with no movement on the offensive end. The Bucks just looked out of it, and an even rarer thing occurred, as the Bradley Center crowd started booing their beloved Bucks off the court.
Then, things started to slowly turn around for Milwaukee, thanks to usual heroes like Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe, as well as an unlikely one in big man John Henson. Coach Jason Kidd had some really good things to say about Henson, which included, “I think he was the hot player there in the third, being able to score in the paint, teammates being able to find him, and being able to finish…His role, his energy and effort, changing shots, but also helping on the pick and roll was big tonight.”
Milwaukee outscored Minnesota 21-10 the rest of the quarter, and cut the deficit to nine, 86-75 heading into the final twelve.
That was when the best player on the floor, Giannis Antetokounmpo, started to take over, including an incredible euro step past multiple Timberwolves defenders en route to slamming it home. The Bucks were then within five with under 10 minutes to play, and with the momentum of the crowd and the clear fatigue showing on the side of Minnesota, it truly felt like Milwaukee was going to do it at that point, and pull off the comeback.
Bledsoe kept making plays, including a huge and-one finish, Brogdon didn’t seem to miss a shot while playing with a team-high +20 on the court, and the Bucks defense stepped up, holding the tired Timberwolves scoreless for over four minutes during a stretch late in the fourth.
In a total team effort, Milwaukee went on a 46-19 run before Jimmy Butler hit a garbage time three, and the Bucks pulled off the improbable comeback, from getting booed off the court down 20, to the Bradley Center being as loud as ever, getting the 102-96 victory to improve the Bucks to 18-15 on the season.
Antetokounmpo was asked about the mindset of the team, when they were down 20 points in that third quarter. “You just have to keep playing hard. You can never stop fighting. The number one rule for our team is that we’re never going to give up.”
As cliché as it might sound, the quote really was exemplified by the Bucks and how they played, primarily by Antetokounmpo, Bledsoe and Brogdon, who played lights out the last 15 minutes of the game.
The Timberwolves were likely fatigued and certainly collapsed throughout the second half, but for the Bucks to stay in it, not give up and ultimately win the game, that says something about this team and their effort, which has been questioned often as of late.
Milwaukee now has a second game of a back to back on the road, and will face the star-studded Oklahoma City Thunder Friday night in OKC.