A historic night for Giannis Antetokounmpo and breakout for Joe Ingles key 123-114 win over Minnesota
Someone had to win Friday night at Fiserv Forum, as the Milwaukee Bucks and Minnesota Timberwolves each came into the game on four-game losing streaks. Fortunately for the Bucks (23-12) they were able to snap their streak with a 123-114 victory and improve their home record to 15-3. The Timberwolves fell to 16-20.
“Hell yeah, especially the last game of 2022,” Bobby Portis said of the good feeling of breaking the losing skid. “Close it out nicely and get a chance to relax and things like that and reflect on the year and then right back to every other day.”
Here are some takeaways from the game:
Say hello, Joe Ingles
Yes, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday were out Friday. Yes, that will make scoring and defending a player like Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards difficult.
But the Timberwolves were without all-NBA big man Karl Anthony-Towns and three-time defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert. And with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez available, one would think the scales would have still favored the Bucks.
Yet after a high scoring first quarter, the Bucks went terribly cold – like making just five shots cold. Milwaukee was just 1 for 14 from behind the three-point line in scoring just 17 points in the second period. And with Lopez sidelined with foul trouble, the Bucks were outscored 30-26 in the paint in the first half.
Antetokounmpo (22 points) and Portis (14) kept the Bucks within shouting distance, however, and then in the third quarter, Joe Ingles put his stamp on the game.
The 35-year-old free agent playing in just his sixth game since returning from rehab for a torn left anterior cruciate ligament in January keyed a 39-point third quarter for the Bucks by going 3-for-6 (including 2 threes) and scoring eight points.
“Obviously with Jrue and Khris and George (Hill) and those guys out, there was a bit more opportunity to play some pick-and-roll and get some actions and I think going into halftime you could see, I thought, it looked like Giannis was trying to put us on his back like he has for a lot of games this year and it was on – not just me, but a lot of us – to try and pick it up and help him,” Ingles said.
He then opened the fourth quarter as the de facto point guard with Antetokounmpo on the bench and began the scoring with a walk-up 28-footer. He then assisted on a Portis bucket and a Jevon Carter three to help the Bucks take a 99-89 lead.
“It’s awesome – I’m not gonna lie, just having Joe out there, a guy that can make plays, make big shots, you know a guy that can basically put us in our spots and talk to us and kind of organize us (is big),” Antetokounmpo said. “He’s had a lot of experience. Played in the NBA a decade now. Played in a lot of FIBA tournaments, which is way, way more set plays and system (oriented). He’s a guy that knows the game of basketball and just having him out there just as a guy that can make plays for us is amazing. Love that guy.
“Being able to come down and make shots and get to his spots and take control of the game, it speaks a lot of the experience he has and I’m not gonna lie – I’m just happy that he’s on our team.”
Ingles finished with season highs for points (14), assists (10), rebounds (5) and minutes (25).
“I would have gone home very happy tonight if we had won,” Ingles said. “Especially after the last few games. But just to feel a bit more like myself and getting my minutes up a little bit from what I’ve been playing, just helping these guys out to win a game. That’s what I’m here to do, to help create and playmake for these guys and make shots when I can and be annoying on defense. Tonight was probably the most natural I’ve felt out there.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo continues onslaught on history books
Two nights after becoming just the 10th player in NBA history to score at least 40 points, pull down at least 20 rebounds and have at least 5 assists – Antetokounmpo did it again on Friday against Minnesota with a 43-point, 20-rebound, 5-assist effort.
He joins Wilt Chamberlain (five times) and Elgin Baylor (once) as the only players in NBA history to have 40-20-5 in consecutive games and the first time since Chamberlain in 1966. Antetokounmpo is the first to score at least 40 and pull down at least 20 rebounds in two straight games since Moses Malone did it for Houston in the 1981-82 season.
“His force, his determination, his will, attacking, attacking, attacking, finding teammates for open looks, just his competitive nature, it’s just what we’re built for, what he’s built for,” Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said.
It is also the third time this season Antetokounmpo scored 40 or more points in consecutive games, and it was the second time he’s done it in the last 12 days.
Oct. 22 vs. Houston: 44Oct. 26 vs. Brooklyn: 43Dec. 19 at New Orleans: 42Dec. 21 at Cleveland: 45Dec. 28 at Chicago: 45Dec. 30 vs. Minnesota: 43
It was his seventh game of at least 40 points in his 30th game of the season.
“It’s nice to be running to the corner in transition where I can shoot a three instead of looking at him in the eye and getting run over,” Ingles said with a grin. “I mean, he carries such a load for us, which for us I think as a team we need to help him with that.
“I think tonight was a little bit kind of forward progress of helping him and us trusting him when he’s got the ball and vice versa, him trusting us when he’s got the ball for us to make shots and plays. But yeah, it’s much nicer being on this side and in this locker room than him train wrecking us down the other end.”
Antetokounmpo scored at least 40 in a game a career-best 10 times in 67 games last season, and this year’s total already tops any other season in his career.
2020-21: 5 (61 games)2019-20: 3 (63)2018-19: 6 (72)2017-18: 4 (75)2016-17: 1 (80)
What’s more, Antetokounmpo drew 16 Minnesota fouls in total. He went 14 for 21 from the free throw line.
“It’s a great compliment to be around those guys and it’s always a great feeling to be able to go out there, help the team in any way possible try to get a win,” Antetokounmpo said. “We’re missing our two best players and it’s kind of hard. But at the end of the day we gotta keep building good habits together, keep on playing together and the team has done that.
“In the game against Chicago we didn’t make enough shots to win the game. We were up 11. Today we were down 11 and we were able to come back and respond great in the second half and play some defense.
“I’m proud of this team. As a leader, I just try to go out there and do whatever I can, try to push myself to the limit and I just want to win games. Feels way better when you win and you’re able to go home and sleep.”
It’s how you start… and finish
The Timberwolves tend to start – and finish – fast. They came into the game as the fourth-best first quarter scoring team (30.3 points per game) and the No. 7 fourth quarter scoring team (27.7).
Defensively, the Bucks are 11th in opponent scoring in the first quarter (28.0) and the No. 8 scoring defense in the fourth quarter (25.9) – although they have struggled in those areas during their four-game losing streak (33.8 points in the first quarter and 30.0 in the fourth).
Without their big men the Timberwolves tried to get out and run and attack the Bucks’ bigs in the paint – and they were successful in scoring 20 of their 34 first quarter points in the paint. The Bucks were able to keep pace to a degree, scoring 30 of their own.
The Bucks had a terrible shooting second quarter (17 points) and then hit some threes in the third to score 39 points and take an 89-83 lead into the final frame.
Ingles’ play and some three-pointers falling from Grayson Allen and AJ Green helped the Bucks extend their lead to 105-89 early in the fourth quarter and the Bucks outscored the Timberwolves 34-31 in the final period to prevent the visitors from rallying back.
5 Games the Bucks’ Big Three have played together this season. They are 3-2 in those games. Last season the team was 37-10 when the trio were on the court together and just 14-21 when one or more of them missed a game.
13 Consecutive missed three-pointers from the Bucks from the end of the first quarter into the second before Ingles hit one with 1:21 left in the first half. At that point, they were just 2 for 20 (10%). They finished the half 3 for 22 (13.6%).
14-12 The Bucks’ record since starting the year 9-0.
20 Double-doubles on the year for Bobby Portis after scoring 22 points and pulling down 14 rebounds. It was the sixth time he scored at least 20 and had at least 10 rebounds.
“If I touch the ball that’s what I try to do,” Portis said. “It’s what I’m good at, is trying to put the ball in the hole and try to pass the ball to the rim. That’s what my coach used to say as a kid: Bobby don’t pass, he passes it to the rim.”
21 Total games missed by Bucks players with non-COVID illnesses and the health and safety protocol.Serge Ibaka: 7Jrue Holiday: 4MarJon Beauchamp: 4Wesley Matthews: 3 (health and safety)Pat Connaughton: 1Grayson Allen: 1George Hill: 1
Budenholzer acknowledged the illnesses have made it tough to field a truly healthy team.
“I’m assuming, probably every team to some degree, is dealing with it – I know (Rudy) Gobert this afternoon came in as possibly missing with illness. But just to stay focused on us, yeah, it’s been a lot of games that we’ve missed. And there are some games where guys are playing not well or it’s starting to kick in and then the next day or morning wake up and you’re like yeah, he’s sick. I think these things hopefully go in these stretches and then hopefully we can have a great long stretch without it. But it’s been certainly something for us to deal with.”
More:The good, the bad and the weird of 2022 for the Milwaukee Bucks
More:A brutal schedule and roster fluctuations highlight Bucks’ rough December
Khris Middleton did not suffer setback with knee injury
Friday marked the seventh straight game Khris Middleton has missed with what has been listed as right knee soreness, and it marked just over two weeks since he played last on Dec. 15 against Memphis. Middleton told the Journal Sentinel on Dec. 25 that a “couple little minor things” occurred in the knee after he returned from offseason wrist surgery on Dec. 2, and that he did experience swelling in his knee. But after being upgraded to doubtful on the injury report on Christmas Day in Boston he has been ruled out since.
He had done some work in practice on Tuesday.
Budenholzer said there was no setback for Middleton, and added that the three-time all-star is also dealing with an illness.
“So, he’s catching it from every direction possible,” Budenholzer said before the game against Minnesota. “He’s definitely slower than anticipated, a little different timeline than anticipated, but still, I think we’re hopeful that it’s short term.”
Play of the game is Joe Ingles’ lob to Giannis
Ingles and Antetokounmpo ran a pick-and-roll early in the second quarter, with Ingles finding Antetokounmpo with a nice lob dunk. And while the play is a staple for the Bucks with Antetokounmpo rolling to the rim – it’s a play requiring feel and timing and Ingles is still working his way into the rotation. He spoke about how he didn’t get a lob off in time to Antetokounmpo in Chicago, so if anything it’s a sign of increasing comfort for Ingles.
Video of the game is Anthony Edwards’ block on Giannis
Late in the second quarter, the Timberwolves were up 50-42 when Anthony Edwards drew an offensive foul on Antetokounmpo at around the three-point line with some physical defense. Antetokounmpo objected, getting a technical foul – which was followed by a technical foul on Budenholzer. D’Angelo Russell made both free throws to make it 52-42, and set up the following play. Antetokounmpo drove the lane and put up a layup, but Edwards closed and flew in for a blocked shot. Russell corralled the loose ball and pushed the ball up the court before pulling up for a three and a 55-42 lead.
Bucks injury report
Holiday (non-COVID illness), out
Middleton (right knee soreness), out
George Hill (non-COVID illness), out
Who do the Bucks play next?
The Bucks will open 2023 by hosting the Washington Wizards on Sunday, Jan. 1 at 7 p.m. The Wizards are near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, but they have three 20-point per game scorers in Bradley Beal (23), Kristaps Porziņģis (21) and Kyle Kuzma (21). Rui Hachimura is also a threat off the bench.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: A historic night for Giannis and breakout for Ingles key 123-114 win