MILWAUKEE – In his memorable appearance at Timberwolves practice on Wednesday, Jimmy Butler reportedly told General Manager Scott Layden that the Wolves needed him, a line Butler packaged with an expletive.
It was hard to argue with that sentiment on Friday.
The Wolves, without Butler, looked listless in a 143-121 loss to the Bucks in which they trailed by 29 at halftime.
The Wolves were also without Andrew Wiggins as he was awaiting the birth of his first child in Minnesota, but Wiggins’ presence might not have mattered much, especially with the way Milwaukee was shooting and the Wolves were defending.
The Wolves blamed Friday’s lackluster effort on, well, lackluster effort, and an inability to maintain the required amount of intensity throughout 48 minutes, a common problem in the preseason. Intensity is something the Wolves can control, so why has it been a problem?
“I really don’t damn know,” a frustrated Karl-Anthony Towns said. “If you find out, let me know so we can get that done. You can get beat. … But if you get beat, don’t ever go out and get embarrassed like that. That’s just unacceptable.”
All camp the Wolves have said they would be able to put the distraction of Butler behind them, but it’s hard not to look at their performance and think it’s having some kind of influence over the team, as much as they insist otherwise.
The Bucks made eight of 10 three-pointers in the first quarter and led 84-53 at halftime.
The Bucks were 25-for-38 from three-point range. Khris Middleton, who scored 22 points, went 5-for-8 on three-pointers.
Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 32 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in just 25 minutes. Taj Gibson was the only Wolves player with a decent-looking stat line (21 points, seven rebounds).
“It’s a compilation of things,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “It’s everyone working together. There was good hustle, good effort at the start of the game, but there’s no shortcut through this.”
And there’s not much time left to figure out how get through it with the regular season starting Wednesday.
“We don’t got no more time to be out here and say OK, it’s the preseason, it doesn’t count, we’re back to 0-0. No,” Towns said. “This momentum we’re riding right now, this wave we’re riding, is not good. It’s not good at all.”