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Bucks vs. Timberwolves Prediction: Will Doc Rivers Turn It Around?

Written by: Grant Mitchell
Published February 23, 2024
10 min read

The Milwaukee Bucks (35-21) are going out on the road to face the top team in the Western Conference, the Minnesota Timberwolves (39-16), in both teams’ return from the All-Star break.

The Bucks are still fourth in odds to win the NBA Finals but are only 3-7 with Doc Rivers as their head coach. They also don’t look any better on defense and have not maximized the Giannis Antetokounmpo-Damian Lillard partnership.

The Wolves, on the other hand, were a model of consistency through the first half of the campaign and are a couple of months away from securing home-court throughout the postseason. They beat the Bucks (minus Lillard) 129-105 a week into February and will have plenty of confidence heading into the matchup.

Here, we will break down the betting odds and share our favorite picks for the Bucks vs. Timberwolves showdown.

Bucks vs. Timberwolves Prediction

Bucks vs. Timberwolves Betting Odds for Friday, Feb. 23

The Timberwolves are favored by 3.5 points on their home court on Friday. They’re 10-9-2 (52.6%) against the spread as a home favorite and 29-24-2 (54.7%) overall, the sixth-best mark in the league.

The Bucks are just 1-4 (20%) ATS as a road underdog and 21-34-1 (38.2%) ATS overall, the worst and second-worst percentages in the league.

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Teams Spread Moneyline Total
Milwaukee Bucks +3.5 (-105) +145 Over 225.5 (-110)
Minnesota Timberwolves -3.5 (-115) -175 Under 225.5 (-110)

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Bucks vs. Timberwolves Prediction

Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks began the year with visions of having the most dominant two-man game in the league and their usual defensive presence at the rim. Everything seemed to be going their way as they started the year 31-10, but their performances within those games told a different story—now, the results are also fading.

Milwaukee ranks 17th in defensive rating (115.9) for the year. Although they’re up to 10th (113.6) under Doc, they dropped from fifth to 23rd in offensive rating and 29th in point differential per 100 possessions during clutch time (at a whopping -67.4).

A lack of communication and understanding have been Milwaukee’s biggest weaknesses defensively. They have one of the highest blow-by rates in the NBA and often look unsure as to where they’re supposed to be. 

The absence of Jrue Holiday also had an even greater impact than expected, as the point-of-attack defending duo of Lillard and Malik Beasley has been anything but a lockdown defensive pairing. 

Despite the team’s struggles, Giannis is still putting up MVP-level numbers (30.8 points, 11.2 rebounds, 6.4 assists on 61.6% shooting). That said, he only managed 17 points, seven assists, and three rebounds in 27 minutes against the Wolves earlier this month.

Lillard averaged 21 points and 6.5 assists on 32.6% three-point shooting to start February and usually plays worse on the road than he does at home, as his scoring (23.8 points) and three-point percentage (32.3%) are both down.

Milwaukee leads the league in field goal percentage on drives but attempts them the sixth-fewest times per game. They also get the third-most “open” shots (nearest defender four-six feet away) per game but make just 34.7% of those attempts from three. All in all, this is a situation in which the team can’t get to what it’s best at on offense and is missing pieces on defense.

Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves have the third-best net rating (+7) in basketball thanks to their stifling defense and elite three-point percentage. Not only do they lead the league in defensive efficiency, but they hold opponents to the fewest points per game and sixth-worst three-point percentage.

Whereas that amount of defensive effort can often take away players’ legs, it hasn’t had that effect on Minnesota. They shot the third-highest three-point percentage (39.3%) and get contributions from the bench just as much as they do the starters (sixth in bench net rating).

The Wolves have also been great against contending teams, going 8-4 against top-four seeds from both conferences (half of those losses coming against the Oklahoma City Thunder).

As impressive as the team has been, they’ve been even better at home. Although their offensive efficiency tails off slightly, they allow 8.4 fewer points per 100 possessions than they do on the road and five fewer than the second-place Houston Rockets, giving them a net rating of +10 (second - Boston Celtics).

Offensive stagnation in the halfcourt can be a problem whenever the ball stops popping as they’re just 26th in assist-to-turnover ratio. Sneakily, a key player to watch is Mike Conley since he’s the one natural-born facilitator and can also knock down threes with regularity.

Anthony Edwards started the month hot, averaging 30.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 5.3 assists on 50.7% shooting. He’ll be the player to watch going against the Giannis-Lillard pairing.

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Bucks vs. Timberwolves - My Pick

It may seem obvious by now, but we like the Wolves to cover the line at home. They totally stifled the Bucks’ offense in Milwaukee and now get to return home to defend their court after a healthy rest period.

Rest is now what the Bucks need, they need more reps. The team is disjointed and frayed and needs to keep hammering away until they can figure something out (if anything). 

Giannis and Lillard are still elite players and will help this team go on a run eventually, but they’ll be hard-pressed to start that on Friday.

How to Watch Bucks vs. Timberwolves on 2/23/24

When: Friday, Feb. 23, 9:00/10:00 p.m. CT/ET

Where: Target Center

TV: ESPN

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AUTHOR

Grant Mitchell

490 Articles

Grant is a sports and sports betting journalist who prides himself on delivering breaking news and insightful analyses of the industry. Grant graduated from Virginia Tech in 2021 and is feverishly pursuing his ambitions in the sports betting field.

In his free time, Grant can be found passionately watching sports, doing a workout, or searching for adventure with his friends.

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