Returning home after a grueling road trip, the Milwaukee Bucks were welcomed back with a matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves, one of the top teams in the NBA.
To make things even more challenging, the Bucks were without two of their key cogs in Damian Lillard and Khris Middleton. That made this matchup an uphill climb for Milwaukee, and indeed, they couldn't stack up against the Timberwolves. After holding a brief lead in the first period, the Timberwolves got a hold of it and never turned back.
The Bucks did their best to keep it close, but eventually, Minnesota pulled away and led by as many as 28 points en route to a 129-105 victory.
After dazzling in Bucks' loss to Timberwolves, AJ Green needs a full-time role
Despite another grueling defeat there was a bright spot for Milwaukee in this game, and that was the play of wing AJ Green.
The young sharpshooter had a career night, clocking in 27 points on 9-of-11 shooting, including an efficient 7-of-8 from deep. Despite the loss, Green had the Fiserv Forum crowd locked in whenever the ball was in his hands, and especially when he let it fly from deep. In addition to his points, Green had three assists and two rebounds.
Over his last four appearances, Green had played over 20 minutes twice. Unsurprisingly, in those two outings, he's scored double-digit points. No one will mistake him for an All-Defensive player, but the wing has also played some quality defense when he has been on the floor, fighting to stick with his assignment and making things as difficult as possible for them.
With how mightily Milwaukee's bench has struggled this season, it's time for Green to see the floor more often. The team desperately needs a reliable spark from the second unit, and Green has what it takes to be that player. He needs to eat into Pat Connaughton's minutes tremendously, as the Bucks may very well have a hidden gem in their hands, and it would be a shame not to utilize that.
Elsewhere, Jae Crowder, who was filling in as a starter for Khris Middleton, had what very well may have been his best game of the season. The veteran forward clocked in 21 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and a steal. Shooting 7-of-11 from the floor and 4-of-5 from deep, Crowder was on fire.
Since returning from mid-season surgery, Crowder had struggled to look like his pre-surgery self, but perhaps this performance can help get him on the right track. With Milwaukee not making a deal for a wing defender at the NBA Trade Deadline, Crowder's importance has shot through the roof, as the team will need him to play that role most nights.
If he can play tough defense while making shots like this, Crowder will be a huge factor for this team.
On the other side of the ball, the Timberwolves were red hot. Anthony Edwards led with 26 points and nine assists. Karl-Anthony Towns had 19 points, and Mike Conley had 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting from 3-point shooting while also dishing out nine assists. Minnesota shot an efficient 21-of-41 on their 3-point attempts, and it felt like they simply could not miss for most of the basketball game.
The Bucks will have a quick turnaround, facing the Charlotte Hornets on Friday. It's unclear if the team will have Damian Lillard or Khris Middleton back in the lineup. Newcomer Patrick Beverley is also not expected to be in uniform. The Bucks have been struck with the injury bug lately, and they need their top guys back in the lineup very soon.
Stay tuned for more Milwaukee Bucks analysis.