The start of the Timberwolves’ game with Milwaukee at Target Center on Monday night was delayed when a game official discovered one of the rims wasn’t level.
As folks toiled to fix the problem, the Bucks took some extra shots. The Wolves, without a hoop to shoot at, did some extra calisthenics. Josh Okogie played hacky sack with a basketball. Eventually, both teams retreated back to the locker room.
Finally, nearly an hour past the slated starting time, and after both teams warmed up again — take two.
As it turned out, it only delayed the inevitable.
Playing for the second time without suspended center Karl-Anthony Towns, the Wolves stayed close through two quarters before the Bucks buried them in the third on the way to a 134-106 victory.
The Wolves (4-2) went 1-1 without Towns, who now returns. The Bucks (5-2) showed why many consider them the best team in the Eastern Conference.
It sure showed in the second half.
“Credit to them,’’ Wolves coach Ryan Saunders said of the Bucks, who shot 53.8%, outrebounded the Wolves by 10 and outscored them 62-38 in the paint. “They overwhelmed us a little in the third quarter.’’
Actually, the tide might have turned late in the second.
The Wolves had used a 19-11 run to turn a 10-point Bucks lead to two.
The Bucks hit a three. Then, late in the half, with the clock winding down, Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo drove the lane, colliding with Jordan Bell. The initial call was a charge. But Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer asked for a review, the call was overturned, and Antetokounmpo was credited with a basket. Suddenly the Wolves were down seven at the half.
Jeff Teague scored the first bucket of the third quarter, but then it was all Bucks.
Milwaukee outscored the Wolves 32-22 the rest of the quarter, ultimately taking a 20-point lead into the fourth.
“We didn’t make shots,’’ said Robert Covington of the Wolves, who shot 10-for-30 as a team in the third. “We got stagnant. We didn’t come out with the urgency we needed to, and we ended up playing catchup.’’
The long, athletic Bucks — presenting the same sorts of challenges Philadelphia did in the other Wolves loss this season — eventually ground the home team down at both ends of the floor. Afterward, Saunders said his team got away from the way he wants them to play in the second half, during which the Wolves were outscored 70-49.
“It’s to be expected in certain games,’’ Saunders said. “[The Bucks] will do that. They pose a challenge.’’
Antetokounmpo, playing downhill, finished with 34 points, 15 rebounds and six assists in 27 minutes. Khris Middleton scored 26, Eric Bledsoe 22.
The Wolves got 25 points — and another efficient outing — from Andrew Wiggins, who made four of seven threes. Covington had 15. Bell had 12. Gorgui Dieng, Teague and Shabazz Napier all had 10. Dieng started again for Towns.
But 35.9% shooting isn’t going to cut it against the Bucks.
“I think we went away from what we were trying to do,’’ Covington said. “What we normally do, what had us in the game in the first place. We have to stay the course.’’
Now Towns is back. In the two games he was gone, Saunders saw some things he liked in Dieng, Bell and Noah Vonleh, players who might get more opportunities going forward.
“Obviously you want to win every game,’’ Saunders said. “But when your best player is out, and you go 1-1? You feel good about that.’’