MILWAUKEE - Over the past two whirlwind days, new Timberwolves coach Chris Finch has talked a lot about offense, since he made his NBA reputation specializing in it.
But in his first game as an NBA head coach, Finch received plenty to digest related to where the Wolves need to improve on defense, as the Bucks walloped the Wolves 139-112 at Fiserv Forum on Tuesday night to hand Finch the most lopsided loss in a Wolves coach's debut.
Giannis Antetokounmpo spun and muscled his way past any defender who tried to get in his way for 37 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. The Bucks seemingly hit at will from three-point range through three quarters, when their percentage from deep was 56% on their way to shooting 48% for the night.
If the Wolves' team psyche was in a vulnerable state following the rollicking 48 hours that included Ryan Saunders' firing and Finch's hiring, the Bucks showed them little mercy from late in the second quarter onward, when they scored 12 consecutive points, all on threes, to go up 79-62 at halftime.
"I'm sure [emotions] played a part but these guys are professional, they're ready to go and this transition was never going to be seamless," Finch said. "I got to learn them. They got to learn me. We got to learn just how to play through these games until we can get a little bit of a rhythm and settle in a little bit."
On the sidelines, Finch appeared to be upbeat throughout the night, clapping often as the Wolves transitioned from one end of the floor to the other. Individual conversations with players near the bench included a lot of pats on the back.
“We're starting at square one again. For us having to learn a whole new coach, how he works, how can we complement his vision best and how can we make it come to life … we have to continue to find ways to figure this on the fly. This whole season has been on the fly.”
Finch's biggest takeaway from the Wolves' defensive effort — a lack of physicality. It was something Saunders also decried at times.
"They didn't feel us all night," he said. "We didn't put our bodies on them. We needed to do that and of course early on, they got the rim and later in the game they got the three-point line."
There are short-term and longer-term fixes, like getting in the weight room, Finch said the Wolves can try to improve that aspect of their defense.
"It's certainly coachable," Finch said. "It's about positioning and just trying to get the guys being comfortable a little bit more, aggressive on the ball, getting through things, blowing up some screens, getting onto guys' bodies so it's not as easy for them to go the way they want to go."
That wasn't a problem for Milwaukee.
The report was a little brighter on offense for the Wolves, who hung with Milwaukee early thanks to a season-high 36 first-quarter points. Finch's mission to have Towns be the focal point of the offense seemed to suit him just fine as he compiled 26 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists, the latter a career high.
"[Towns is] a great facilitator," Finch said. "He draws out the defense, he can make that shot, he can find himself in pick-and-roll. We're going to play him all over the floor, really. I told him [Tuesday], you go where you need to go, and we'll kind of shape it up around you."
Added Towns: "I just want to do my part in being as aggressive as I can offensively for scoring but also getting everyone involved. It's a fine line I dance every night with."
And now he has a new dance partner in Finch.
Towns said the events of the past few days wore "a lot" on the team's collective emotions. There isn't a lot of time to process everything, either, with another game on tap for Wednesday in Chicago.
"We're starting at square one again," Towns said. "For us having to learn a whole new coach, how he works, how can we complement his vision best and how can we make it come to life … we have to continue to find ways to figure this on the fly.
"This whole season has been on the fly."