Bucks hold off Timberwolves

The Milwaukee Bucks were happy to get another victory though they know they didn’t play up to their standards.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 32 points and 17 rebounds, and the Bucks held off a strong challenge from short-handed Minnesota in a 106-104 victory over the Timberwolves on Wednesday night.

“Not paying our best but still finding a way to win is good,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “But this isn’t the formula.”

Antetokounmpo got his 30th double-double in 33 games this campaign and Khris Middleton added 13 points despite shooting 5 for 18 as league-best Milwaukee hit just 42.6% of its shots overall and only 9 of 36 from 3-point range. Brook Lopez scored 11 points and Eric Bledsoe had 10.

“We missed a lot of good shots and came out a little slow,” Middleton said.

Shabazz Napier had 22 points to lead Minnesota, and Gorgui Deng scored 15, Josh Okogie added 12 and Jarret Culver 10.

Minnesota was playing without its two best players as Karl-Anthony Towns and Jeff Teague sat with knee injuries.

The Timberwolves were also missing Treveon Graham and Andrew Wiggins, who were battling flu-like symptoms.

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“That presented a lot of opportunities for a lot of guys and I thought a lot of guys stepped up,” Napier said.

Milwaukee slumped out of the gate. The Bucks had just four points through the first six minutes and didn’t take a lead until Lopez converted a three-point play to make it 31-29 with 8:41 left in the second quarter.

They went into halftime with a 52-51 lead despite shooting 34% from the floor. Minnesota connected at a 41.7% clip but made only 3 of 14 3-pointers while the Bucks knocked down 8 of 26 from beyond the arc.

The Timberwolves mounted one last challenge in the closing minute as Dieng hit the first of two free throws to make it 1006-104 with 46.2 seconds left. Robert Covington grabbed Pat Connaughton’s missed layup, giving Minnesota the ball with 21 seconds left but after the Timberwolves used their last timeout, Dieng missed a 19-footer with 3 seconds remaining.

“We were hoping to get Shabazz on a quick catch and go or we liked going for a win with (Covington) getting to the corner,” Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders said. “There is a reason they are arguably the best defense team in the league too, they blew it up.”

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