Third quarter egg leads to Timberwolves loss to Bucks under national spotlight

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Fresh out of the all-star game in which their top two stars played — one scoring 50 points — and their staff coached the Western Conference side, the Timberwolves had a chance to strut their stuff in front of the nation Friday at Target Center.

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo goes to the basket and draws a foul against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

Their bout with Milwaukee was nationally televised. Throughout the day, in the leadup to the game, ESPN went “all access” with Minnesota, featuring a number of Timberwolves-centric interviews and segments to highlight the top team in the Western Conference.

Three days without NBA action this week led to a number of national pundits spouting off their list of conference and title contenders as the Association transitioned into the final third of the regular season. Minnesota was repeatedly dismissed by many.

No matter, Friday would provide an easy opportunity to remind every just how dominant the Wolves have been this season, particularly at Target Center.

Instead, Minnesota laid one giant egg in the third quarter en route to a 112-107 home defeat.

Milwaukee blitzed the Timberwolves in the frame that has proven so kind to Minnesota this season, outscoring the Wolves 36-13 in the quarter. Minnesota had more turnovers (7) than made shots (5) in the frame where the Wolves shot 5 for 19 from the field.

Milwaukee Bucks forward Danilo Gallinari (12) works around Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kyle Anderson (1) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

Minnesota rallied to make it interesting in the fourth, cutting the Bucks’ lead to six with five minutes to play thanks to a pair of Karl-Anthony Towns triples. An Anthony Edwards triple with 31 seconds to play to trim the deficit to three.

But Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo made enough plays down the stretch — whether it be difficult shots or clutch offensive rebounds — to seal the deal. Lillard finished with 21 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds, while Antetokounmpo had 33 points and 13 rebounds.

Lillard’s final highly-contested jumper with nine seconds to play put the Bucks up five to put the game away for good.

Meanwhile, ahead of those late-game threes, Towns and Edwards largely struggled on the offensive end against a previously struggling Milwaukee defense.

The loss ended Minnesota’s four-game winning streak and tightened up the picture atop the West standings.

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