MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 32 points and 17 rebounds, and the Milwaukee Bucks held off a strong challenge from short-handed Minnesota in a 106-104 victory over the Timberwolves on Wednesday night.
Antetokounmpo got his 30th double-double in 33 games this season and Khris Middleton added 13 points despite shooting 5 for 18 as Milwaukee hit just 42.6% of its shots overall and only 9 of 36 from 3-point range.
The Timberwolves were without their top three scorers: Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Jeff Teague. The three account for 65.3 points, 14.0 assists and 15.6 rebounds per game.
Shabazz Napier had 22 points to lead Minnesota, and Gorgui Deng scored 15, Josh Okogie added 12 and Jarret Culver 10.
Napier, starting in place of injured Teague, scored 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the first half, but then had just seven after the break.
Milwaukee, which has the league’s best record, slumped out of the gate. The Bucks had just four points through the first six minutes and didn’t take a lead until Brook 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.
A 15-6 run capped off by Antetokounmpo’s 3 out of halftime put the Bucks ahead by 10 and they took a 77-71 lead into the fourth.
Culver’s driving dunk over Lopez got the Timberwolves within a basket with 9:38 to play but he was called for a technical foul on the play that ultimately set up Kyle Korver’s 3 to put the Bucks back up by six, 87-81 with 8:45 remaining.
Minnesota responded with five straight points to pull within one but Antetokounmpo’s driving layup and Middleton’s 3 snuffed out the rally.
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.
Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns worked out before the game with a sleeve on his injured left leg but did not play. … In addition to Teague (sprained right knee), Minnesota was also without Trevon Graham (flu) and Noah Vonleh (bruised left glute).
Bucks: SG Wesley Matthews sat out for a second straight game because of a bruised right thigh but Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said he expected Matthews to be fine and available possibly as early as this weekend.
Timberwolves: Return home to face Golden State on Thursday night.
Bucks: Host San Antonio on Saturday night before heading out on a four-game West Coast swing next week.
TOP PHOTO: Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, center, talks to his players during the second half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020, in Milwaukee. The Bucks won 106-104. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
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