HomeBasketball TodayGiannis Antetokounmpo Praises Minnesota after Epic Win!

Giannis Antetokounmpo Praises Minnesota after Epic Win!

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Giannis Antetokounmpo knows just how dominant the Wolves are defensively.

The Milwaukee Bucks emerged victorious in a potential NBA Finals preview, holding on for a 112-107 road victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night. Giannis Antetokounmpo was the best player on the floor at Target Center, scoring 33 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and dishing out five assists while living at the free throw line.

After another typically superlativee individual performance, though, the two-time MVP couldn’t help but fete the Timberwolves’ defense.

“They’re very good defensively, man,” Antetokounmpo said, per Eric Nehm of The Athletic. “They pre-switch, try to keep their bigs down there, but once you see that, you know that now. Once the first guy comes out, he slips. Then the second guy has to come out. We have to get that match-up, so Dame can do his thing, so I can do my thing. I think the team did a good job to not let them pre-switch. Guys kept coming up there, and we were trying our best to get the matchup that we want.”

Wolves’ offense must catch up to dominant defense

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (5) and center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) celebrate against the Memphis Grizzlies in the fourth quarter at Target Center.
Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota owns the league’s best defense, sporting a 108.3 defensive rating that’s a whopping 2.2 points per 100 possessions stingier than the Cleveland Cavaliers’ second-ranked mark. Rudy Gobert’s bounce-back season has made him an overwhelming favorite to win another Defensive Player of the Year award, while Jaden McDaniels has continued cementing himself as one of basketball’s premier wing stoppers. Anthony Edwards has been a defensive difference-maker when locked in, too, and Karl-Anthony Towns has also taken strides on that side of the ball compared to 2022-23.

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The Timberwolves are tied atop the Western Conference with the Oklahoma City Thunder at 39-17, the result of their dominant defense more than anything else. But that gaudy record might not be an accurate indication of their championship viability considering their struggles on the other side of the floor. Minnesota’s 115.1 offensive rating ranks just 17th in the NBA, by far the lowest of any team toward the top of the Western or Eastern Conference standings.

Does Chris Finch’s team really have the two-way balance that’s always been a prerequisite for hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy at season’s end? The Thunder join the league-leading Boston Celtics as the only teams to rank top-five in offensive and defensive efficiency. The Los Angeles Clippers are fourth in offense and 13th in defense, while the defending-champion Denver Nuggets rank just outside the top-10 on both ends of the court.

Perhaps just as damning of the Wolves’ title hopes is their underperformance with the game on the line. Minnesota’s -8.2 net rating in the clutch is a bottom-10 mark in the league, a maddening penchant for turnovers and poor shot selection dragging down the team’s late-game offense. A lack of defensive versatility with Towns and Gobert on the floor can be more easily exploited under the crunch-time pressure cooker, too.

The Timberwolves nearly crawled back from a 13-point fourth quarter deficit on Friday against the Bucks. Cross your fingers it’s an eawsly sign of some much-needed improvement in the clutch as the regular season enters its stretch run.

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