Player grades from Minnesota Timberwolves’ road loss to Bucks

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JANUARY 01: Jarrett Culver #23 of the Minnesota Timberwolves dunks over Robin Lopez #42 of the Milwaukee Bucks. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JANUARY 01: Jarrett Culver #23 of the Minnesota Timberwolves dunks over Robin Lopez #42 of the Milwaukee Bucks. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

The shorthanded Minnesota Timberwolves put up a legitimate fight and were in the game up until the final possession against the class of the NBA on Wednesday night.

86. 106. 89. Final. 104

The Minnesota Timberwolves went into Milwaukee to take on the 30-5 Bucks on Wednesday night without their two best players and missing a total of five rotation players, and they made a game out of it.

The Wolves were 18-point underdogs coming into this one, but they played as though they had no idea they were supposed to be the inferior team.

Presumptive league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 32 points and 17 rebounds, but nobody else on the Bucks had more than 13 points. The Wolves were led by 22 points from Shabazz Napier and had seven of 10 players score in double figures.

The Bucks started the game by missing their first seven shot attempts and the Wolves ultimately led by a 23-19 margin at the end of the opening frame. Milwaukee pushed back in the second and led by a single point at halftime.

The Wolves played the first portion of the second quarter with a massive lineup, featuring Jarrett Culver, Jaylen Nowell, Keita Bates-Diop, Jordan Bell, and Gorgui Dieng. It worked for the most part, and until some key possessions late in the game Minnesota held their own on the glass against one of the league’s best rebounding teams.

Minnesota’s defense and rebounding remained strong in the third quarter, but they struggled mightily from the field, only making a single 2-point shot in the period.

Down six heading into the fourth quarter, things looked like they’d crash and burn more than a couple of times. Ryan Saunders stuck with a four-rookie-plus-KBD lineup for a long stretch, with Culver, Nowell, Kelan Martin, Bates-Diop, and Naz Reid keeping the Wolves in the game.

Ultimately, it came down to a couple of empty possessions from Minnesota and a failed final play, as Napier couldn’t get the ball from Dieng after a timeout and Gorgui was forced into a tough, deep 2-point attempt that missed. With 1.1 seconds left, Brook Lopez missed the first free throw, leading to an intentional miss on the second. With no timeouts, the Wolves couldn’t even get a shot off and the game was over.

Player of the Game

SHABAZZ NAPIER. A. Shabazz Napier was fantastic with a team-high 22 points (7-13 FG, 4-7 3P, 4-4 FT), plus six rebounds and three assists in 31 minutes. He had a huge 4-point play and another big 3-pointer in the fourth quarter and paced the Wolves on a night during which he was the only true point guard dressed.. Guard. Minnesota Timberwolves

B-. Gorgui Dieng was okay in this one, with 15 points, six rebounds, a block and an assist, but he shot just 4-of-14 from the field. Due to strong play from both Jordan Bell and Naz Reid and the matchup against Giannis, Dieng only played 24 minutes.. Center. Minnesota Timberwolves. GORGUI DIENG

ROBERT COVINGTON. B+. <a rel=. Forward. Minnesota Timberwolves

JARRETT CULVER. B. Jarrett Culver was once again extremely active, shooting 5-of-14 from the field and 0-for-5 from beyond the arc. He finished with 10 points, eight rebounds, five assists, a steal and a block. Culver missed his first seven shot attempts but got better as the game wore on, including a massive poster dunk over <a rel=. Guard. Minnesota Timberwolves

Minnesota Timberwolves. KELAN MARTIN. C+. Kelan Martin started but was fairly quiet, finishing with three points, three rebounds, and two assists while shooting 1-of-7 from the field. He ceded much of his second-half playing time to Nowell, but continues to be a solid all-around player when he gets the opportunity to play.. Wing

Other Players

The Wolves received contributions from all five players who came off the bench in a solid all-around team performance.

Josh Okogie led the way in minutes and scoring with 12 points in 26 minutes. Jaylen Nowell also had 12 points but it took him only 16 minutes to launch 11 shots.

Keita Bates-Diop was great, too, with 10 points and three rebounds, including two makes from beyond the arc. Naz Reid had 11 points and two rebounds, and Jordan Bell had two points and three rebounds in 14 minutes.

Next. The best Wolves players of the decade. dark

Up Next

The Wolves return home for a 7 p.m. CT matchup against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday in the second half of the back-to-back.